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Congo Love SongAfrican American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State$
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Ira Dworkin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469632711

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632711.001.0001

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Near the Congo

Near the Congo

Langston Hughes and the Geopolitics of Internationalist Poetry

Chapter:
(p.203) Chapter 7 Near the Congo
Source:
Congo Love Song
Author(s):

Ira Dworkin

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632711.003.0008

This chapter explores the ways that the poet’s seminal work “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” engages a discrete geopolitical space rather than a generic African continent. While the poem names four rivers on three continents, references such as “I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep” are typically read as romantic. Although the poem’s political allusions may not be apparent to readers in the twenty-first century, at the time of its writing, the Belgian Congo was less than a generation removed from a massive international human rights campaign in which African Americans played a central role. Given the extensive coverage of the Congo in the NAACP’s Crisis magazine, which first published “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” contemporary readers of Hughes could not have avoided recognizing the Congo as a categorically political trope, which is instrumental in Hughes’s work from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to the 1960s.

Keywords:   Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, Harlem Renaissance, Crisis (magazine), NAACP

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