CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE James Baldwin, a preeminent African American writer, wrote the following about the poetry of Langston Hughes: Hughes, in his sermons, blues and prayers, has working for him the power and the beat of Negro speech and Negro music. Negro speech is vivid largely because it is private. It is a kind of emotional shorthand-or sleight-of-hand-by means of which Negroes express, not only their relationship to each other, but their judgment of the white world.

Can a symbol-such as the island in this poem-also function as “emotional shorthand”? What kind of judgment do you think it might reveal about the “white world”?

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