My favorite of all of the Hughes poems that we read is “Negro”. My preferred part of the poem is the structure, which allows you to read through the poem two different ways. The first way allows you to read through just catching the main points which all have to do with slavery. Ideas such as being black, a work, a singer, and a victim all give the reader a feeling that the narrator has. When you read through it the second way, by paying more attention to the details of the poem, you get a type of explanation from each of these ideas. When Hughes describes being a “Negro” he uses the color black three times, twice at the beginning of the sentence. I think this is Hughes’s way of showing what people associated with the term “negro”, he didn’t associate words about their personalities or even their intelligence, just there skin color which is what some people deemed most important.
The next line is an explanation of what it is like to be a slave. The first word we see is “Caesar”, a historical figure that rings complete dictator. This goes along with the images that I immediately see when thinking about slavery. I can see an awful strong leader, and the helpless slaves who are forced to do whatever they say. This idea can be seen in the image of someone shining Washington’s shoes.
Following Caesar, we see an explanation of the “worker”. The strongest line in the poem is “Under my hang the pyramids arose”, I think that there is no better way to describe the efforts that a slave puts into his work. These people worked from sunlight to sunset barely taking breaks, and the fruits of their labors were strong and plentiful. I think that Hughes gave a lot of credit to the slaves by comparing their labor to those who built pyramids.
Singing is something that is misinterpreted when attached to slavery. It does not always mean that people are happy, instead most slaves sung when they were most unhappy. We see during Hughes explanation of singing that it represents “sorrows” and almost a type of hobby to pass the time. Since slaves had no freedom while working, what more was there to do than sing? Even on Sundays when slaves weren’t forced to work, you can see how many slaves could return to singing since that did not know how to express themselves in any other way.
Victim is the last different detail we see Hughes explain. In this description we get the most harsh tone of the entire poem, and its also where we see imagery at its height. Words such as “cut” and “lynch” are both haunting words that demonstrates to the reader the type of hell these people were living in. At the close of the poem Hughes refers back to his first explanation of Negro, which is being black. The last images the reader is left with are of a black man being lynched in America, or a black man being tortured in Belgium, both which are equally disturbing.