Song for a Dark Girl
What’s Up With the Title?
The title lets us know right away that the speaker of this poem is distinct from the poet. Langston Hughes is no girl. That means that we're dealing with a little something called a persona poem, or a poem in which the speaker adopts the voice of a character.
And just who is this character? Well, we can learn a lot about her from the phrase "dark girl" (and for even more, be sure to visit our section on the "Speaker"). It tells us that she's black and she's young. And instead of referring to her as a black woman or a black girl, the poet has chosen to call her a dark girl.
What's that about? Well for one thing, it takes the emphasis off her race and puts it on her emotions. And aren't those what matter here? This girl has both dark skin and dark thoughts, because she's in full-on grieving mode.
The title also shows us that this is meant to be a song as much as a poem. Hughes was inspired by the blues and jazz music that surrounded him, so he writes this poem as a song for his speaker. This means that, when we read it aloud, we could even put a melody to it and sing it. Hey, maybe that's exactly what Hughes wanted. There is a meter after all.
The idea that this poem is a song also connects it to the Confederacy's unofficial national anthem, "Dixie," from which this poem takes its refrain, "Way Down South in Dixie." If "Dixie" is a song for white men, then this poem is a song for a dark girl.