John Hall

Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Shirley Lumpkin

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


Early in his literary career, Langston Hughes was faced with a question that occupied his writing and led to an important innovation in American literature: how could Hughes describe the experiences of African-Americans while using the forms and traditions of a Western (i.e., predominantly Anglo-American) literary culture which often sought to exclude, even negate, the very experiences and oral traditions which he sought to express? Hughes's desire to create an individual poetic voice which could present the African-American community as a whole soon led him to modify traditional Western literary forms by incorporating African-American oral and vernacular forms into his poetry; Hughes felt that African-Americans simply could not be represented by traditional Western forms, since the creators of those literary forms (and, by extension, the forms themselves) often did not account for African-American experiences. Hughes realized that, in order for him to be able to represent life as he saw it within the African-American community, he would need to incorporate African-American vernacular forms of art into his poetry. Towards that end, Hughes began using African-American musical forms in his poetry as a means of creating a distinctly African-American poetic voice.


Hughes, Langston, --1902-1967 –History and criticism.

African American – Poetry – History and criticism.

African American poets.