James Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902 on the first day of February. When he was a small child, his parents divorced and his father left them and moved to Mexico (Dickinson, 6). He was best known for the “Harlem Renaissance” work. Hughes was an American poet, columnist, novelist, playwright, and a social activist. He was one of innovators of the jazz poetry and he appreciated black identity and culture. James Hughes injected ordinary situations with his own insights. Most of his poems were about lives and frustrations of black people and how white population discriminated black masses. Hughes was a “negro artist and a racist Mountain” (Dickinson, 20).
He helped to bring out the uniqueness of the African-American culture and also to enable the black people to have a sense of racial pride. With a help of his poetry, he encouraged black artists to be able to embrace “the low-down folks” and uphold their faces in the American standardizations. Hughes helped in bridging the gap that existed in the realm of the high art and vernacular culture.
The poem “The Weary Blues” demonstrated all the accomplishments that Hughes made when he described musician movements ‘‘He did a lazy sway…He did
a lazy sway…” (Hill, 31-114). His language took him through to the music of the pianist. He also extended this fusion by the incorporation of blues stanzas in his poem. It also shows how Hughes invested greatly in the Black American music experiences and its significance.
Langston Hughes tried to bridge all racial differences which were dividing the United States of America and the whole world in general. He encouraged the Black American artists to stop adapting artificial standards which were set up by the White Americans through his poems in order to stop the racial discrimination which was prevailing among these groups.
Hughes used musical forms like jazz, blues, and popular songs in his poems. He believed that with radios playing jazz music and blues there was an opportunity for the Black Americans to express their feelings where some jazz music on most occasions was played only in the Black-American communities. Hughes saw that a presence of these musical forms was a source of unity among the American people since the White-Americans visited the Black American communities so as to be able to listen to jazz music and blues which were not played among them. These musical forms were appealing to all the people in America including these two groups.
Musical forms like jazz, blues, or popular songs which were used in Langston Hughes poems helped to bring out and shape his works since musical forms were used repeatedly to create a rhythm of a dialogue in a movie. Musical forms are used to expand sound effects and influence reader’s mood. Moreover, an instrumental music or tune helps to describe the actual picture of how the scene really looks like. Musical forms in the Langston Hughes poems give a helping hand while creating a steady pattern and establishing a tempo in poetry. They are aimed at pushing and moving the poem to a higher intensity level.
Langston Hughes kept on changing all of his verse styles when he first used blues, then after some time he moved to bebop, and then finally to jazz music (Strunk, 97-120). It was done in order to be able to capture all the Black American transmuting voices. Music was aimed at capturing black masses changing voices in its original form in Hughes poems. It is through these musical forms one can be able to find the vernacular of the Black Americans whose roots are taken from Africa as a very interesting and entertaining continent.
The jazz music symbolized forces of nature, time, and sometimes even death. Hughes brought out the power of blues music in which he refused to portray his fellow Black Americans as people who were simple-minded. Hughes challenged all the conceptions and assumptions which were made about the black people and the black identity in his poem “Minstrel Man.” The author achieved this by making readers realize that a lightheartedness which was associated with traditions of the minstrel was nothing more than a mask that hid personal pain of black humanities. This showed pain and sufferings that the Black-American performers had to endure that is facing an economic hardship in the “Hard Luck,” sexual exploitation in the “Ruby Brown,” and a loss and violence in the “Song for A Dark Girl” (Dana et al. 974-992).
In conclusion, Hughes’ poetic use of musical forms like the use of jazz music, blues, and popular music was a way of acknowledging his black identity and fighting racialism which was becoming a major problem in the United States of America. The musical forms brought the White Americans and the Black Americans together. This association was a source of strength and inspiration for the black community.
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