Celebrate Black History Month: I KNOW Rivers

I want to share a poem that I love that was written by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. We will talk about the Harlem Renaissance later this month as it is a very important era in Black History that was an explosion in creative expression. However, for this blog I want you to just read this poem; to really feel it, read it more than once and out loud. I have always believed that poetry should be read out loud. Its fairly short:

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

Why I Love This Poem

I would like to share why I love this poem. No, I will not go deep into an analysis as to what each line means like I usually would because I want you to think about what this poem means to you. What I will say is I love the way water is expressed in this poem and its connection to the past. Water has always been seen as a symbolism for being able to adjust and take on the shape of what it is contained in.  Water can adjust to fit conditions and find room. Yet water doesn't just conform, it can change the landscape. This poem speaks to how while many Black people have been extracted from Africa through bondage and pain, we have not lost the deep connection to what is African about us. That we have taken our African roots and made a new story on this soil that has reshaped America, that our history is not just where we are from but it lives inside us in the very way we have survived. 

Part of what I always take away from Black History Month is that Black history is not just slavery, The Civil Rights movement and Barack Obama. So often when we think of Black History we focus on contributions, dates and terms. But history is living. It's happening right now on our streets and is influenced by the past. For some Black people history lives in our very veins, circulating through us just like Langston's rivers.

Langston Hughes

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, book cover
Langston Hughes, book cover