Countee Cullen: Collected Poems

The Voices of the Voiceless: Comparing the Poetry of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen College

As two key figureheads in what is now deemed the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen served as voices for a previously voiceless population. Their poetry speaks of the enduring struggles of being an African American, and the effort required to merely survive in such a discriminatory society. However, despite being poets with similar senses of purpose, their employed methods differed dramatically; Hughes and Cullen approach the field of poetry at two vastly different vantage points. While Hughes and Cullen differ in selections of speaker and audience, their core concepts of struggle, a faulty society, and a wise, complex narrator remain mutual.

As blacks in 1920s America, Hughes and Cullen were victims of widespread (and, at the time, socially acceptable) discrimination. These circumstances provided the primary themes for much of their poetry, inspiring them to write on the daily battles of life as a second class citizen. The theme of rising above struggle can be found in both author’s works. In Langston Hughes’s poem “Mother to Son”, the narrator explains to her son that while the stairs may be unstable and dark, he must continue ascending and follow her. Symbolically, the narrator is...

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