A Dream Deferred

Harlem

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936.
What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
This short poem is one of Hughes’s most famous works. Hughes wrote “Harlem” in 1951, and it addresses one of his most common themes – the limitations of the American Dream for African Americans. 2

 Twelve years later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still speaking about this dream.

1Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.
Source: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Random House Inc., 1990)
2Osborne, Kristen. Boghani, A. ed. “Langston Hughes: Poems “Harlem” Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 8 February 2014 Web. 30 May 2017.

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