Langston Hughes Poems

Langston Hughes Poems - Known as “the bard of Harlem”, Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an early innovator of jazz poetry, poetry that “demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feel of improvisation”.

The inspiration for many of his works was during the Harlem Renaissance and he wrote that black artists intended to express themselves freely, no matter what the black public or white public thought (The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain).

Mr. Hughes received many honors and awards during and after his lifetime including the NAACP Spingarn Medal (1960) for distinguished achievements by an African American and listed in 100 Greatest African Americans (2002), developed by Molefi Asante, a prominent African-American scholar, historian, and philosopher.

Langston Hughes Poems

Blue Monday

No use in my going
Downtown to work today,
It’s eight,
I’m late -
And it’s marked down that-a-way.

Saturday and Sunday’s
Fun to sport around.
But no use denying -
Monday’ll get you down.

That old blue Monday
Will surely get you down.



Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


Dreams Deferred (Harlem)

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Langston Hughes wrote many more poems in addition to short stories and letters. Just use the keyword box to search for them!


I, Too, Sing America

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
”Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed -

I, too, am American.


Little Old Letter

It was yesterday morning
I looked in my box for mail.
The letter that I found there
Made me turn right pale.

Just a little old letter,
Wasn’t even one page long -
But it made me wish
I was in my grave and gone.

I turned it over,
Not a word writ on the back.
I never felt so lonesome
Since I was born black.

Just a pencil and paper,
You don’t need no gun nor knife -
A little old letter
Can take a person’s life.


Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor -
But all the time
I’se been a –climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now -
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of
human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to
New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in
the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


Still Here

I’ve been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ‘em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’ -
Bu I don’t care!
I’m still here!

More Langston Hughes poems:

Summer Night on Summer Poems II.

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