Langston Hughes (Cross)

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. His mother wrote poetry and was black, his father was a black storekeeper. His parents split, leaving his mother to struggle going from city to city in search of work. He spent a part of his childhood with his grandmother, and became successful. He entered Columbia University as well as Lincoln University. Hughes was a voice in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance that had not quite existed like any other before. He was a perfect example of how Dubois’ idea succeeded because he stuck to his roots, understood it, and expressed his beliefs, reaching out to thousands and thousands of people. He wrote “Cross,” that I read several years ago and that I have not forgotten because it still lives inside of me. He wrote:

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

To me, this poem was extremely power despite not being mixed like he describes. It is here that he sympathizes with those that are mixed and expresses his understanding. In describing what he might have said to both his parents he says about his dad that he “takes (his) curses back” and to his mom, “If ever (he) cursed (his) black old mother and wished she were in hell, (he’s) sorry for that evil wish.” He did not ever mention wishing his father was in hell. Therefore, as a reader, you are led to believe that mixed children of that time believed they were neither black nor white and could not fit in. It is here that Langston Hughes also unleashes stereotypes of both black and white people and acts as though one would want to be more like the white in this scenario. He says that the black mother died in a shack while the white father died in a fine big house. In other words, the white man was rich, the black man was poor. I could never quite understand why Langston Hughes, a man who hopes that his people will learn to appreciate themselves and understand who they are, would ever say such a thing. Thats why Mr. Hughes was so intriguing. He spoke the truth no matter how hard it was to hear, but in the end there was always something positive to look on. Hughes said he wished his mother well but did not say anything about wishing his father well. Because although the mother put the child through hell, she took care of him, and he loved her.


2 thoughts on “Langston Hughes (Cross)

  1. I personally enjoyed this post. the poem was personal and relevant to the time. it made me think about the jim crow laws and the Plessey v. Ferguson case. it’s good that you refer to specific lines in the poem and individually analyze them.

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