What does the poet have to say about his or her historical time period?

Read: Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes — Historical Context Sylvia Plath-Autobiographical Context Choose one of the two authors in context for this week’s assignment. What does the poet have to say about his or her historical time period? Is the poetry in any way autobiographical? If so, explain how, using symbolism and other literary elements present in at least two poems to illustrate the way the poetry reflects the poet’s life and times. Write the usual 3+ paragraph original post.


The Harlem Renaissance was a pivotal cultural and artistic movement that emerged in the early 20th century, primarily during the 1920s, in the African American community in Harlem, New York City. Langston Hughes, a prominent figure of this period, used his poetry to capture the essence of his historical time while infusing it with autobiographical elements. This essay delves into Langston Hughes’s poems to explore how he conveyed the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and intertwined his own experiences within his verses.

Historical Context in Langston Hughes’s Poetry

Langston Hughes’s poetry serves as a poignant reflection of the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance. During this period, African Americans faced both the promise of newfound opportunities and the continued burden of racial discrimination. Hughes’s poem “The Weary Blues” provides a vivid depiction of the jazz-infused Harlem nightlife, showcasing the vibrancy and creativity that defined the era. He also tackles the theme of racial identity and pride in poems like “I, Too, Sing America,” asserting the importance of unity and resistance against oppression. These poems not only capture the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance but also comment on the socio-political climate of the time.

Autobiographical Elements and Symbolism

Langston Hughes often infused his own life experiences into his poetry. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” he draws upon his travels and experiences as a young man, symbolizing the deep connection between African Americans and their heritage. Moreover, “Mother to Son” can be interpreted as an autobiographical dialogue between Hughes and his own mother, reflecting the struggles and aspirations of his life. Hughes skillfully utilizes symbolism, such as the staircase in “Mother to Son,” to convey the resilience and determination needed to overcome life’s obstacles.


Langston Hughes’s poetry stands as a testament to the historical significance of the Harlem Renaissance. Through his verses, he not only encapsulated the vibrant cultural and artistic movement of his time but also shared his own life experiences as an African American. The interplay of historical context and autobiographical elements, enriched by symbolism, makes Hughes’s poetry a profound reflection of both his life and the times in which he lived. His work continues to be a source of inspiration and insight into the complexities of the African American experience during the Harlem Renaissance.