Although Langston Hughes was by no means the only voice of the Harlem Renaissance, he had an immense amount of influence in his objectives to portray the reality of America at the time. One poem of his that particularly stood out to me was “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too.” In this poem, Hughes says, “When we see Victory’s glow, Will you still let old Jim Crow” showing his commitment to his country but also identifying what he is actually fighting for (and how ugly it might be). He later equates black oppression to the oppression of the “Germans to the Jews.” Clearly, Hughes is describing immense problems with America at the time. He is patriotic but recognizes that there is still a long way to go for the American dream. “America was never America to me” is another line that stood out for this reason. Hughes clearly has a well-defined sense of what America should be in his mind, even if reality doesn’t fit his expectations. He is still optimistic about the future but realizes that it takes effort to create the America he wants. Hughes’ poetry works to close the gap between his (and many others’) dreams and the actuality of what America realistically is.
What made Hughes unique and possibly what caused his poems to be so well known today is that he takes a unique take on America. He is both hopeful, but realistic; crude and refined in his diction. This is probably why his works appealed to such a diverse crowd. He uses lingo that is representative of the black community at the time in his well structured and poems and works, clearly showing his education at Columbia University. It is easy to understand the purpose of his poems at a quick glance but it takes a much deeper effort to realize his genius. Hughes is clearly a part of high culture today with influences that span much wider categories. J.I.D., for example, is a rapper from Atlanta who has, on multiple occasions, claimed he is heavily influenced by Langston Hughes. With such a wide influence today, I wonder how his works were received in the early to mid 20th Century or if Hughes ever knew the impact he had. Like many of the artists mentioned in “Or Does it Explode,” it would make sense that the conflicting responses Hughes received at the time are a testament to the power of his written word and of him as a prominent figure.