Hughes was writing at a time when many white Americans viewed African Americans as sub-human, or at least secondary in terms of cultural importance. How does "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" respond to that idea?
By linking his ancestry to the great rivers of civilization, the "Negro" speaker refutes the idea that he and his race are a lesser form of humanity. The area around the Euphrates is commonly seen as the cradle of civilization, and the speaker states that he (through the connection of his ancestors) bathed in that river. People like him have been present since the beginning of time. He next references the Congo and the Nile, which are located in Africa and relate to...
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