by Langston Hughes
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
On Being Brought from Africa to America
- Phillis Wheatley
In this rhyme- and rhythm-rich poem, Phillis Wheatley describes being brought to America from Africa and its influence on her religious beliefs.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “On Being Brought from Africa to America” and ask students to discuss how the two poems address the topic of African American identity. What effect do you think the author’s backgrounds had on their perspectives of their identities?
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy,” Dunbar uses the experiences of a caged to bird to discuss the oppression of African Americans.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “Sympathy” and ask students to discuss how the two authors use poetry to explore the experiences and history of African Americans. How do they use figurative language to depict these experiences? What is the effect of this technique?
I Ask My Mother to Sing
- Li-Young Lee
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “I Ask My Mother to Sing,” the narrator’s mother and grandmother sing of their old home in China.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “I Ask My Mother to Sing” and ask students to discuss how one’s ancestral history is a part of their identity. How are the speakers impacted by the history of their family and ancestors? Why does this affect each speaker’s identity?
The Harlem Renaissance
- Jessica McBirney
In the informational text “The Harlem Renaissance,” Jessica McBirney discusses how the movement developed and the effect it had on America.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and ask students to discuss how this poem reflects the artistic period. How do the style and themes of Langston Hughes’s poetry compare to how it is described in “The Harlem Renaissance?”
David's Old Soul
- Nikki Grimes
In Nikki Grimes’s poem “David’s Old Soul,” a speaker describes himself growing up as he takes on more responsibility.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “David’s Old Soul” and ask students to discuss Nikki Grimes’s use of the “Golden Shovel” form. How does Nikki Grimes’s use of line 3 from “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” contribute to “David’s Old Soul?” How does this influence students’ interpretation of Grimes’s poem? What do students think Grimes’ intention was in linking these two poems together? Students can also discuss the symbolism of rivers in both poems.
- Yesenia Montilla
In Yesenia Montilla’s poem “Maps,” a speaker describes maps and how borders divide the world.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “Maps” and ask students to discuss the significance of rivers in the two poems. How is the physical land connected to the speakers’ identities in the two poems? How do the speakers in the two poems regard rivers
The Medicine Bag
- Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
In Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s short story “The Medicine Bag,” Martin’s grandpa visits him and passes down a medicine bag to him, an important object in their family.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “The Medicine Bag” and ask students to discuss how both texts explore the connection between generations. How does Grandpa use the medicine bag to feel connected to his family? How does this compare to how the speaker feels connected to the past through rivers in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”?
Langston Hughes' hidden influence on MLK
- Jason Miller
In the informational text “Langston Hughes’ hidden influence on MLK,” Jason Miller discusses how Langston Hughes’ poetry likely influenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “Langston Hughes’ hidden influence on MLK” to provide students with a more accessible example of Hughes’ poetry. Ask students to discuss the themes Hughes explores in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” How do students think Martin Luther King Jr. would have felt about this poem? Why?
- Langston Hughes
In Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too,” a speaker describes his experience with discrimination and his hope for equality in America in the future.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “I, Too” to provide students with another example of Langston Hughes’ poetry. Ask students to discuss how Hughes speaks to the experiences of black people in America. How do the tones of his two poems compare?
- Diana Childress
In the informational text, “Lasting Contributions,” Diana Childress discusses how enslaved Africans shaped culture in the Americas.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “Lasting Contributions” to provide students with a poem about a speaker’s connection to the past. Ask students to discuss what aspects of the past the speaker feels connected to. How are these aspects tied to culture? According to “Lasting Contributions,” how did Africans remain connected to their past and culture? Why do students think they chose these methods? How did these methods help to preserve African culture like the speaker does in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”?