Sociological Review of Langston Highes

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father James Nathaniel Hughes was forced to leave the United States of America by the stiff racial discrimination and economic hardships to go a look for green pastures Mexico. This made Langston to spend his early age with his grand mother. Langston Hughes works of literature include poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and plays among others (Haugen, 2005).Among his famous poetic works is the poem ‘Un American Investigators’. He wrote this poem probably before his appearance to the senate may be to represent what he could face during the investigation concerning his political and racial sensitive works. The poem is written in more or less prose form and it does not have the format of a poem. It is in a continuous form from the first line to the last one without definite lines and stanzas.

The theme of this poem is basically about the unfair treatment that the black Americans received from the white in the United States of America. It reveals a true picture of the harsh and disrespectful attitude of the white the United States towards the African Americans. In the poem, the writer reports the activities that took place in a session of the investigation where one answers questions from a committee concerning their true names, change of the name, reasons for changing one’s name, and the true originality. It also shows how those being investigated are bold and they give biased answers intentionally just to hurt the investigators and to demonstrate their smartness.

The title of the poem, ‘Un-American Investigators’`, was used by the writer to avoid direct confrontation with the white administration of the day. The writer of the poem, Hughes, intentional was to criticize the racism that was practiced by the whites in the U.S. He was referring to the white administration but he decided to poetically make the title sound different. In the poem, the committee looks like a religious one but in the real sense they represent the white man administration in the U.S. He shows how the committee was proud and arrogant during the investigation to demonstrate the harshness of the white people to blacks.

The word ‘gentile game’ was used by author intentionally to emphasize how the blacks were disrespected by the white. This is because the gentiles had no respect among the Jews society. The poem speaks about the changing of the name and originality in a context that appears Jewish. The purpose of using this context is to make sure that poem does not directly attack a certain group in the America. Highes has also used the psychological approach of using indirect approach to present his information. This is an approach that is used by many of the modern poets to address sensitive issues in the society. This approach ensures that information is in an indirect form and only the targeted group can obtain the meaning (Rampersad, 2002).

The author has also used some historical approach in the poem to pass his message to the society in a more realistic manner. The writers who use this approach believe that poem is a sub division of history. They mostly write their poetic works in reference to the historical things, ideas, happenings, and facts. The poem ‘Un American Investigators’ by Highes shows the use of this historical approach in its composition. The word coreligionist in the poem indicates an historic approach to writing of poems because it represents facts from the past (Stanford, 1980). For long time people have been defending the religious believes of the people which shared religion with them. Coreligionist is used as an insult for the person who shares religion with the one whose religion is being disapproved. The poem also addresses the issue of the gentles and the Jews. These two groups are known to be antagonists for many years.  The author has used them to emphasize the type of the relation that was there between the white and the black Americans.

Another approach that is used by many of the poets in writing their works is the sociological approach. Supporters of this approach believe that a good poem is supposed to address certain issues in the society. The contents of the poem are supposed contribute in shaping the life way of living of the society. The poem ‘Un- American Investigators’ by Hughes has also demonstrated the sociological approach.  It was intended to address the issue of the discrimination and inequality that took place in the U.S on the basis of race difference.

Hughes has used poetry elements to pass his message to the black people. The element commonly used is that of symbolism which enabled him to avoid direct attack in his criticism to the white Americans. The committees have been used in the poem symbolically to refer to the white American administrators. He decided to use committee in this poem because they were well known to carry out thorough investigations. He has also used warm manure symbolically to represent the fear of the committee regardless of their power. This shows how the white administrators are in fear of the courageous back American activists (Stanford, 1980).

He has also used repetition to emphasize his message to the black Americans. The worn name has been re repeated severally in the poem by Hughes to show how the black Americans are not support to betray their leaders to the white. He also uses metaphor to show how the White Americans are arrogant disrespectful to the blacks when he says that the committee has fat smug.

The poem was written in the time when racial discrimination in the U.S was alarming. The black Americans were prejudiced by the white Americans who were the majority and in power. Hughes used this poem to bring to light the racial challenges that the blacks were facing and how they were supposed to come together and fight for their rights. The poem is therefore educative to the society.


Rampersad, A, The Life of Langston Hughes: 1941-1967, Oxford University Press US, 2002

Stanford, B. D, Enemies of poetry, Routledge, 1980

Haugen, B, Langston Hughes: the voice of Harlem, Compass Point Books, 2005





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