Historical Approach to Langston Hughes Poem ''The Backlash Blues''

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  966 Words
Date:  2022-06-04


Historical approach to literature focusses on the text as a section of broader historical and social context. It also depicts the current audience interaction with the work. The current historicists struggle to elaborate the culture of a period by reading various diverse texts and focussing on the several distinct aspects of learning such as social, economic, political, and aesthetic concerns. They view the text as more than the mere reflection of the culture that generated them but also as the source of that culture by being at the center of resolving the political and social conflict of an age. The contemporary historicism recognizes and analyses the various version of history. It also sensitizes the readers of the fact that the past they decided to focus on is supposed to be redefined by their present perspective. To extensively illustrate the concept of historicism, one can borrow from the works of Langston Hughes. His articles are full of history and historicity.

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The first work to consider is the ''The Backlash Blues.'' It is probably the last poem that Hughes published before he died. In this literary work, Hughes raises eyebrows about the identity that the white society imposes on the black community and the process by which the society struggle to guarantee the misfortune of the black man in the society (Hollenbach & Lisa 280). The white literary backlash is a scenario with which slaves would be very familiar. The situation is now countered by the backlash of global proportions due to the unity of the black people. The last stanza is almost similar to the first stanza regarding set up. The last response line deviates from portraying the passive receiver of action to depicting the speaker's action. The last code signifies the complete turnaround. The following 'backlash blues' will represent the white man. Their control over economics, identity, family, and politics will reach an end.

Moving back to the original form and idiom of the blues, the author uses the poem to try and call out the American backlash in the 1960s. He is not restricting the backlash against black power and the implementation of two Brown v. Board of Education ruling of the supreme court. But goes ahead to incorporate the significant, fought for, but still insufficient advances in economic opportunity and improvement in civil liberty that has been achieved by civil-rights activists from the 1930s (Gallagher & Brian 158). Even though the poem generally speaks against the backlash in American society, it focusses more on an immediate historical moment of the mid-1960s so that the readers can realize a different type of historical awareness.

Another work of Hughes is the first poem that he published as an adult, 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers.'' He uses the most elegant but straightforward techniques of speaking by employing the first-person collective persona and trying to connect historical events to essential rivers. Hughes used thirteen line to present the sketch of the African diaspora. Starting from the fountainhead of civilization moving on to central Africa, then to North Africa, and finally to North America and the history of slavery. Hughes had an arguably strong historical imagination even as a teenager, and more importantly, he possessed the ability to evoke various perspectives about the past (Gray & Paige 162). The poem also links Hughes to an aspect of history that has been broadly acknowledged as pan-African or internationalist. It means a view that creates a link between the mentioned Diaspora and African American history. The poem reached several places including the whole western hemisphere basing its popularity on colonialism and the institutions of slavery. Therefore most of the works of Hughes are indented towards the description of the history of African Americans.

The two poems openly display the history of America and prove that it is not a mere coincidence that Hughes works conform to African Americans history, but they are a fitting reflection of his perspective. The same is evident in all of his other genres including comic tales, drama, fiction, translation, biography, autobiography, criticism, and children's literature. In the whole modernist period regarding American literature, there are very few writers who are consistently attuned to history and raw materials of history like Langston Hughes (Garabedian & Steven 300). The two works also precisely depict two principal characteristics of Hughes's historicity. First, they reflect the immediate view, where Hughes continuously choose to respond with heat, urgency, advocacy, and rhetoric protest. Second, they reflect the long view, where Hughes may review past events with relative calm.


Therefore, Hughes works are particularly important since they provide intertextuality of the historiography of the African American literature periods. Apart from his literature, Hughes is also a well-known and popular writer. His articles are a perfect balance of artistic, political, and cultural elements. If a person carefully studies the works of Hughes, they can readily achieve the various levels of understanding that the author intends in the literature. Hughes poetry is also a reflection of unique aesthetics. Through his works, one can identify the artistic elements that are majorly found in African American literature. Most of Hughes significant aspects relate to unique stylistic devices used in language and also linguistics expressions that only African Americans use in their writing. Even though the poems portray political and cultural feature, they are still a representation of African American aesthetics.


Gallagher, Brian. "'About Us, For Us, Near Us': The Irish and Harlem Renaissances." Literary Influence and African-American Writers: Collected Essays (2015): 157-69.

Garabedian, Steven. "It Doesn't Make Sense": Willie Dixon, The Blues, War, and Peace." Peace & Change 40.3 (2015): 287-312.

Gray, Paige. "Join the Club: African American Children's Literature, Social Change, and the Chicago Defender Junior." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 42.2 (2017): 149-168.

Hollenbach, Lisa. "Sono-Montage: Langston Hughes and Tony Schwartz Listen to Postwar New York." American Literature87.2 (2015): 275-302.

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Historical Approach to Langston Hughes Poem ''The Backlash Blues''. (2022, Jun 04). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/historical-approach-to-langston-hughes-poem-the-backlash-blues

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