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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers


by Langston Hughes

The Negro Speaks of Rivers Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

True, there may be no rhyming going on in this poem, but don’t let that fool you. Hughes is pulling out all of the stops to create a poem that is as full of sound and movement as a raging riv...


Our speaker is a wise, old man with a lot of stories to tell. We imagine him surrounded by a flock of grandchildren at one moment, eyes twinkling, telling rich stories about ancestors and about the...


A positively global setting we have here. We glance out of our spaceship window at the beautiful planet Earth. When our speaker speaks of "rivers" we see some of the world’s biggest rivers sl...

Sound Check

We have a lot to say about this rhythmic and intricate poem that feels to us like a boat rocking its way down a gentle river at night, but we think playwright, activist, and actor, Ossie Davis, say...

What's Up With the Title?

We hear a voice in this title. The voice seems to be that of an onlooker who is listening to a person speak of rivers. We imagine this onlooker to be part of a crowded room or hall, watching "the N...

Calling Card

Hughes was heavily influenced by the Blues, Jazz, and African spirituals that filled his life while he was growing up. As a young boy in Kansas, he was exposed to the rich tradition of black folk s...


No question, there is a lot going on in this poem, and there is a lot being said. However, we promise that you will have no problem walking into the middle of it, sitting down, and listening to its...

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

There is nothing to see here but the brilliant work of a brilliant poet. However, you just might get butterflies in your stomach after reading this poem – it’s that good.

Shout Outs

Abraham Lincoln (8)The construction of the pyramids in Egypt (7)

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