Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

10. Rhythms
in Poetry

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•  Using the Video
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Langston Hughes - Teaching Tips

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  • Hughes's poems are meant for the ear as much as the eye. Have your students close their books and begin your discussion of "The Weary Blues" by reading the poem aloud to them. Ask them how they imagine the speaker actually performing this song.

  • It is useful to point out that Hughes did not write the kind of poetry that Harlem Renaissance leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke advocated. The intellectual leaders of the movement believed that art would bring about racial equality only if white audiences realized that black artists could produce polished works that were erudite and aesthetically sophisticated. The speakers in Hughes's poems, however, range from vagabonds to blues singers. You might begin a discussion of almost any Hughes poem by asking students to point out what is radical in the work and how the speaker differs from Alain Locke's concept of the "New Negro" and from the speakers of some of the elegant sonnets by Claude McKay.

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