Spring 2023

Instructions for Thought Piece #2

I. The Background

As we have discussed, Langston Hughes’ 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” had a big impact on Black writers. It encouraged them to forget about pleasing white Americans and also to ignore middle-class African Americans who wanted them to tell only positive stories so they could be accepted by whites.

One of the Black writers who read Hughes’ essay was the poet Margaret Walker. She was deeply influenced by his essay and chose to become a writer because of Langston Hughes. When she was 19 years old, she wrote a poem called “For My People” that she said was inspired by Hughes. Today, it is still considered a masterpiece and one of the best poems in the African American literature tradition.

Several years after he wrote his famous “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” essay, Langston Hughes wrote a poem called “Tired.” This short poem expresses ideas that he proposed in his essay.

Similarly, the great African American poet Amiri Baraka was influenced by “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” His poem “Heathens” was written in 1995, and shows that he also followed Langston Hughes’ advice that the Black artist “must also never be afraid to do what he must choose.”

II. The Question for Thought Piece #2

To write Thought Piece #2, you must first choose one of the three poems to talk about: Walker’s “For My People,” Hughes’ “Tired,” or Baraka’s “Heathens.” Do not write on all three of them.

The poem you pick will be, in your opinion, the best example of overcoming the racial mountain, what Hughes referred to in his essay as “expressing our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame… to be free within ourselves.”

III. The Structure of Your Thought Piece #2

You should begin your Thought Piece #2 with the poem you have chosen to write about and immediately connect this poem to Langston Hughes’ essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.”

In your second paragraph, you should develop the connections between Hughes’ essay and the poem you have chosen to discuss. For example, pick a line from the poem and link it back to “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” or take the poem’s main idea and show that this idea goes back to Hughes’ 1926 essay.

III. Requirements

Your Thought Piece #2 must follow these guidelines:

  • 2 pages in length
  • Typed and double-spaced
  • Have an original title (your own title, centered)
  • Have your name, the class (ENG), and the date in the upper left corner
  • Answer the question from your own point of view

IV. Submission Instructions

To submit your Thought Piece #2, do the following:

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