Destiny Of A Dream Deferred: “Harlem” By Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem”, also known as A Dream Deferred, explores what happens when a dream is not fulfilled. The poem’s title, Harlem, indicates that the dream is being kept from the people. Hughes named the poem Harlem in honor of Harlem Renaissance New York. This was a significant creative boom in literature, melody and artwork that occurred between the 1910s to the 1920s. Many African African families considered Harlem a refuge from discrimination in other areas of the country. The dream is one of civil rights and social equality. The poem’s persona is an individual who had many important dreams once and hoped to realize them all at some point in his life. Harlem refers to an African American man who feels stressed by the delay of his dream and senses tension within a society which stops some of its citizens from realizing their dreams. The dreams did not come true, so we are asked what to do with them. “What happens when a dream is delayed?” (Langston Hughes). To express his feelings, the writer uses abbreviated diction. To illustrate, the writer uses abbreviated diction to express his feelings. Many African Americans were disillusioned at the lack of opportunities that existed as the state tried to transform itself from rural to urban. The reality of the United States democracy oath was not as it should be. They were often subject to racial discrimination and violence. The fact that white-dominated communities had limited access to places we can understand was an issue. This is because of a larger urban population with better education. Many African Americans became increasingly disillusioned by the promises of wartime justice, and vowed to pursue the same goals of equivalence as ever. Several organized economic and political movements helped Harlem Renaissance in the post-war period. These movements create a new sense of empowerment among African Americans. This was a time when African Americans could invent their own identities within the creative output. However, there were two dominant ideologies. James Weldon Johnson, the NAACP’s James Bols and other African Americans saw the arts as a place where they could be culturally and artistically privileged to lead the fight for equality. They wanted artists to use their cultural experience and heritage to show America’s beauty and contribute to American culture. They believed they would inspire pride in African American society and show whites that blacks are equals through their artistic success. The Great Depression brought down the Harlem Renaissance, mainly because of the loss of white patronage. The National Urban League and the NAACP were both influential journals at that time. The crisis caused them to reduce their financial support for African American artists. Some artists left Harlem in search of other artistic opportunities. This poem, which is probably the most common Langston Hughes poem in American schools, is Hughes’s most well-known work. Hughes wrote ‘Harlem in 1965. It addresses an ordinary theme-the limitations to the American Dream. America was still racially divided in the 1950s. African Americans are still subject to the slavery legacy, making them second-class citizens. The end result of slavery created a new generation African Americans, who wanted to have cultural self-determination, economic justice, and civic participation. The movement was already gaining momentum, but Hughes wrote ‘Harlem’ just three years before Brown, a 1954 supreme court case that declared that public school systems for black and non-white students in states were not constitutional. Hughes was very aware of the struggles he faced as an American black man. He wrote ‘Harlem’ three years before the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs Board of Education that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The speaker of this poem, although we aren’t sure, could be a poet, professor, or black person. The question is strong and the feeling of calm that follows is evident. Hughes was drawn to the image of a delayed-dram. Hughes imagines it drying up, stinking, crusting and exploding. Although not violent, each of these images has a dark undertone. These vivid dreams had the power to change one’s senses, touch, and smell. Langston Hughes states that a disregarded dream evolves, and is in danger of becoming invisible. He/she is not speaking about a particular dream. However, the speaker suggests that African Americans are unable to dream of greatness due to the oppression in their lives. Even if they dream big, their plans can fester and even explode. Arthur P Davis says Hughes is portraying the hopes, aspirations of, and deep-seated discontent at the New York ghetto. (Langston Hughes). Hughes uses vivid imagery to depict what might happen if the dream isn’t granted. The poem uses similes as one type of figurative language. Similes refer to the use of the words like’ or as to compare different things. The poem uses similes to show how a dream delayed is affected by rotting and other burdensome factors. A dream that has been delayed is often compared with a raisin. These items are linked to actions that can be taken to make the dream come true. The poet uses metaphors that compare two things, without the use of the words ‘likes’ or ‘ass’. The poem closes with a single metaphor and the line “Or does that explode?”. This metaphor is about a dream that has been delayed becoming a bomb. The dream may build momentum and explode once it is finished. Alternately, anger can cause the dreamer to act on it. The poem contains many examples of figurative languages that help to strengthen the vivid imagery. Anaphora is the repeated repetition of a phrase or word at the beginning of a series, sentence, phrase, or clause. Anaphora is used here to stress the question and create an urgency. What happens to a dream that has been delayed? Is it drying up? The alliteration creates rhythm and draws attention to the ideas within them. This line uses hyperbole to highlight the dangers of denying the dream for social equality. The Harlem Renaissance is the most important thing about African Americans. It changed the way they were described. The poet talks about how the dream of black America is dying, especially for those who are not white. He wanted information on whether the dream had died or exploded violently. Hughes is a hopeful Harlem resident. Hughes also emphasized the mistreatment and second-class treatment of Harlem’s residents. He also witnessed that many African Americans have lost their hopes and dreams. Harlem Renaissance created an entirely new culture that white Americans wanted. Refer to

Hull, G.T. Hull, G.T. Three Harlem Renaissance women authors of color, sex, and poetry. Indiana University Press.

Myers W.D. Davis O. Dee R., 1997. Harlem:A poem. Scholastic Press is a publishing house.

Jones, MD., 2011. The muse of music is jazz poetry, spoken word (Vol. 137). University of llinoois Press.

Wall, C.A., 1995. The Harlem Renaissance: Women of Harlem. Indiana University Press.

Bloom, H. ed., 2004. The period of African-American cultural, social, and artistic development known as the Harlem Renaissance. Infobase Publishing provides a variety of information resources.






  • bensonsimpson

    Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at



Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at