Langston Hughes: Poems

Langston Hughes: Poems Summary and Analysis of "My People"


The speaker proclaims that the night and his people are beautiful. The stars are beautiful, as are the eyes of his people. The sun is also beautiful, and so are the souls of his people.


Hughes wrote this short and charming poem in three two-line stanzas, using very simple language. He compares the darkness of the night to the faces of his people, describing both as "beautiful." However, he also compares his people to the sun - which mirrors the dignity and brilliance their souls.

Many of Hughes’s Harlem Renaissance contemporaries and critics wanted him to focus his writing on the best and brightest African Americans in order to make a case for racial equality, but Hughes preferred to write about the working class; the men and women that he lived with in his childhood and later, in Harlem. Hughes explained, “Anyway, I didn't know the upper class Negroes well enough to write much about them. I knew only the people I had grown up with, and they weren't people whose shoes were always shined, who had been to Harvard, or who had heard of Bach.”

Critic Hoyt W. Fuller comments that Hughes "chose to identify with plain black people—not because it required less effort and sophistication, but precisely because he saw more truth and profound significance in doing so. Perhaps in this he was inversely influenced by his father—who, frustrated by being the object of scorn in his native land, rejected his own people. Perhaps the poet's reaction to his father's flight from the American racial reality drove him to embrace it with extra fervor."

A reviewer in the 1970 Black World explained that Hughes “occupies such a position in the memory of his people precisely because he recognized that 'we possess within ourselves a great reservoir of physical and spiritual strength,' and because he used his artistry to reflect this back to the people. He used his poetry and prose to illustrate that 'there is no lack within the Negro people of beauty, strength and power,' and he chose to do so on their own level, on their own terms."