What happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry uplike 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 sagslike 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.