Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've Known Rivers

written by Azizi Powell

This post is in praise of African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) and his poem "I've Known Rivers". This post is also in praise of some of the musicians/vocalists who have interpreted that poem.


"First published in The Crisis in 1921, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", which became Hughes's signature poem, was collected in his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926)."

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes

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.


According to "Lincoln's determination to end slavery was said to have started when,
as a young man, he visited New Orleans for the first time." That website includes more biographical information about Langston Hughes.


Gary Bartz NTU Troop (1973)

Uploaded by Ruhkukah5150 on Jul 26, 2010
Recorded Live. Montreux Jazz Festival 1973.


4Hero remix: Courtney Pine - I've Known Rivers (2009)

Uploaded by 1994RapLover on Jun 16, 2009
hot jazzy remix, too fresh!

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1 comment:

  1. Langston Hughes' "I've Known Rivers" speaks to me because I love the way it connects all people of African descent together.

    That poem also speaks to me since I've always lived near water which is interesting since the only water sign in my astrological natal chart is my Scorpio south node. I was born in & lived for 16 years in Atantic City, New Jersey. From that city's Wikipedia page "Atlantic City is located on Absecon Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean...Because of its location in South Jersey, hugging the Atlantic Ocean between marshlands and islands, Atlantic City presented itself as prime real estate and a potential resort town for developers,"

    I went to college in East Orange, New Jersey which is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Newark, New Jersey. According to its Wikipedia page "Newark is located in the heart of New Jersey's Gateway Region, approximately 8 miles (13 km) west of Manhattan. Its location near the Atlantic Ocean on Newark Bay has helped make its port facility, Port Newark, the key container shipping facility for the New York metropolitan area, and the largest on the East Coast. (I didn't know these details before looking it up. I only knew it was near some water).

    My adopted city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is known for its three rivers. From its Wikipedia page "The characteristic shape of Pittsburgh's central business district is a triangular tract carved by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which form the Ohio River."

    So yes, I've known rivers, and I've also known one ocean. My soul has grown deep like the rivers-and the ocean.