The Weary Blues
One aspect of the Harlem Renaissance is the effort by African Americans to define what it meant to be an American of African descent. This means pointing out cultural traditions like the blues, but it also meant creating new ways of expressing one's identity. In a famous essay entitled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," Hughes rejected the idea that white manners and values were the best or the norm. He also discouraged African Americans from imitating whites. Hughes encouraged young African-American artists to embrace their race and "express [their] individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame," as he does in "The Weary Blues" (source: Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader).
Questions About Race
- What is the race of the speaker in "The Weary Blues" and why does it matter?
- Is the poem a positive depiction of African Americans?
- How does the African American musician express himself without fear or shame?
- How does "The Weary Blues" address race differently than Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"?
Chew on This
"The Weary Blues" compares two very different individuals (speaker and singer) with the same frustration over how to express a specific feeling to people who may not understand.