Poetry Lesson: “Harlem” by Langston Hughes

Check out the complete lesson for students & resource for teachers here!

Langston Hughes was a central writer in the Harlem Renaissance.

His poem “Harlem” addresses one main question: What happens to a dream deferred?

What happens to a dream that you have to keep putting off for a later time, that loses its passion, its sweetness?

It’s a powerful poem that uses rich image after image, question after question to leave a visual and emotional impression of the defeat, hopelessness, anger, and drive for change that people in Harlem — African American people in the US — experience(d).

*Bonus Fact: One line in this poem was used as the title of a play (also about the African American experience in the US) by Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun!

Listen to Langston Hughes reading the poem “Harlem” here — and then dive into the lesson!

Here’s the complete lesson on “Harlem,” where I walk you through and discuss the poem step by step. I created ELLiterature to help make poetry accessible – especially to English language learners.

Would you be interested in attending an online class about this poem or about other poetry by Langston Hughes, specifically for English language learners? Please comment if you’re interested!