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Quotes

Quote #1

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (title)

When we read this title, we expect that our speaker to be someone witnessing another person speak of rivers. Why isn’t the title, "I Speak of Rivers" or "I’ve Known Rivers?" How does the introduction of race in this title affect our understanding of the poem?

Quote #2

and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset. (9-10)

If this line reflects the transformation from slave into free man, should we be concerned that the sun is setting and that the golden light might not last long? What is the significance of the verb "turn?" How would this line be different if the lines read "and I’ve seen its muddy/bosom all golden in the sunset"? What other interpretations can you think of for the muddy bosom that becomes golden?

Quote #3

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers. (11-12)

When we’ve come to celebrate the golden Mississippi, we are a bit thrown off by when our speaker returns to a description of dark and "dusky" rivers. Why do you think he chooses the word "dusky," which means "lacking light"?

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