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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Langston Hughes's poem The Negro Speaks Of Rivers


  1. fara says:

    The speaker exudes pride.
    His blood flows through him like the water flows through the veins of the earth, his blood is that of slaves, and abolitionists. They have participated and ignited important events throughout time, he is apart of that because of his ancestry and that is something to be proud of. His soul is deep like these rivers, these rivers that have been tended to by his fathers that have ran red with the blood of his fathers.

  2. Bonus says:

    The negro speaks of rivers does not really based on most questions with their answers

  3. Janet says:

    The imagery in this poem is breath-taking. Hughes follows the lineage of his ancestors through rivers, paralleling their history with the free spirit of untamable currents. Likening his soul with that of a river, ever torrential and yearning for freedom. This type of imagery is profound in any case but especially so when aligned with the civil rights movement.

  4. Krista says:

    This poem gives an overwhelming tone of melancholy and sad acceptance. The Negro speaking is describing how his ancestors, his bloodline or better yet his race, (because “I have known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins”) have been enslaved long enough to see the rise and fall of empires, leaders, and monuments. Important as slavery was to the gritty details of such glories, their enslavement was not glorious in any way.
    Hughes jumps around disturbing facts to the moments in a slave s life that he may relish. The words sound peaceful, but I still get the feeling that there is a lot of upset and wise sadness under these lines.

  5. Adam says:

    The rivers seem to symbolize the roots of slavery to ancient civilizations. They also show how expansive it really was, from Egypt to the Congo and even North America.

  6. Kelsey says:

    In this poem Hughes is referring to slavery throughout history. It is something that has unfortunately always been around in different parts of the world and it is something that will be hard to get over.

  7. Margaret says:

    The Nile line seems to refer to the Jewish people who were slaves to the Egyptians and had to raise the pyramids. Rivers are all over the word, as slavery is global as well. For almost as long as there has been humans, there has been slavery.

  8. Negro Sampson says:

    This poem has a simple meaning. Langston Huges tries to depict a sense of emotion and show the trouble african americans had to deal with during the 19th century. African Americans were second class citizens, and at the time of this poem, still were. My using symbolism, Hughes shows the reader that he believes blacks dont have rights (at the time of the poems writing) and he also believes that blacks will never have the same rights as legitimate, all white citizens. I believe Hughes has implemented a feeling of defeat in this poem, displaying his belief that “negros” will perhaps never be treated fairly. They may continue to be turned down at fancy restaurants, whipped publicly and made fun of by white students and teachers, and compared to today (2010) we can clearly see that these ideals continue to be accurate.

  9. Melanie says:

    hey. i have a school report to write and i just wanted to know the connection between “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes and “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” by Emily Dickinson.

  10. Haylee says:

    wow! what a beautiful poem…just wants to make me smile!! it also touches the heart

  11. Ankit Tejpal says:

    The poem holds a lot in its simplified lines which is perhaps open only for rumination and not layman interpretation.

  12. Lauren says:

    I love this poem.Ive read it many times and i suddeenly realize maybe why Hughes used a river to express his ideas .There are many rivers with different names and they are located all around the world. However, they all dump into the ocean becoming one, so that they are no longer seperate but together.I know this poems is about African Americans struggle through time and their journey.But I also feel Hughes is urging us to come together just as rivers do.We may be different colors, and come from diff. backgrounds but at the core we are all the same.

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