Langston Hughes has always inspired me even when I don’t think about it. Everyone always has their grade school experience with black history. You read about Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Rosa Parks and Langston Hughes.
I’m not writing about Langston because it’s easy but because I love and admire his writing. It reminds me of my own and how he writes about issues that I deeply care about. I didn’t realize it until now but he has shaped my writing from when I was younger. It all started when my grandmother gave me a book of short stories by Langston Hughes.
I love the way he puts words together and everything he writes reads as a poem. The words flows together in order to paint a vivid picture.
“I am the darker brother”-I, Too, sing America by Langston Hughes
One short story that stayed with me over the years was entitled “Gumption”. I was only a timid 13 yr old and I had never heard of the word gumption but it sounded so powerful to me. I read the story like I did many times without knowing what the word really meant.
As I read the meaning of gumption jumped out the pages. The story was about a woman who was telling her husband about old man Oyster and his son. Old man Oyster worked hard so his son would recieve a good education and would not have to perform manual work like he did. Old man Oyster succeded and his son was a respected white-collar worker in the cole industry.
Once the depression hit both father and son lost their jobs. When government relief came around the Oysters went to them for a job. Old man Oyster was given a job building roads and so was his son. Oyster was upset because he knew his son deserved better. He put his son through school so he wouldn’t have to work next to him building roads.
“They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes,”- I, Too, Sing America
Old man oyster went up to the government office to ask why his son wasn’t given a white-collar job.
Their response was they had no white collar jobs for Negros.
Old man Oyster didn’t give up he argued with the man, he stood up for his son and his potential.
The woman telling the story simply kept saying “he got gumption”.
“Tomorrow i’ll be at the table when company comes,” I, Too, Sing America
Her husband didn’t understand at first that gumption was to have aggressiveness, courage, guts and old man Oyster used that to stand up for what he believed in, even when it cost him his job.
Its stories like this that Hughes writes that I can relate to. I growing up as a timid African-American woman have had problems with standing up for myself. I didn’t want to just stand up for myself but to find a balance between standing for myself and being respectful at the same time. That balance is something I still strive for today.
“Nobody ’ll dare say to me “Eat in the kitchen, Then,” I, Too, Sing America
Langston Huges was able to speak to me through his work. From the style of his writing to the messages he would send me through his words. I’m not only inspired by him because he is black but I am able to relate to his writing.
“With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody”-Langston Hughes “The Songs on seventh street”
Some people give to much depth to the color of someones skin but some don’t give enough. Though I don’t judge someone based on the color of their skin being a 13 year old black girl who struggled with having gumption, I needed to see that not only other races can accomplish this but mine could too.
“Besides they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed”-
I, too, am America.