A Rivers Poem for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

August 30, 2013

On NWNL’s Upper and Mid-Mississippi River Expedition this spring in Alton Illinois, we saw the following 1926 poem featured in signage at the National Great Rivers Museum (a Melvin Price Locks and Dam Rivers Project run by the US Army Corps of Engineers)

Louisiana: New Orleans, Jackson Square, African-American male string-bass player, December © Alison M. Jones

Louisiana: New Orleans, Jackson Square, African-American male string-bass player, December © Alison M. Jones

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

by Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967)   A poet, novelist and playwright, Langston Hughes portrayed African-American life from the 1920’s-1960’s. His work reflected dialects and jazz rhythms and he was a leader in the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance.

 

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world

And older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans,

And I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Mississippi River, Lansing, Iowa © Alison M. Jones

Mississippi River, Lansing, Iowa © Alison M. Jones

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