The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain Summary

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain Summary

This essay will summarize and analyze Langston Hughes’s essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” It will discuss Hughes’s views on the challenges faced by African American artists in expressing their cultural identity within a predominantly white society. The piece will explore the essay’s themes of racial pride, cultural expression, and the struggle against assimilation. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with Visual Arts.

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Art is an avenue of expression that draws inspiration from stories around us. Malloci (2) conveys that art is a ‘propaganda’ to encourage African-Americans of their rights to ‘love and enjoy’ what they do. Freedom and acceptance are the central themes in Langston Hughes’ essay entitled The Artist Negro and the Racial Mountain, which tackles the issue of race, culture, and beauty. The White ideology that restrains the emergence of Negro artists to be themselves experienced a breakthrough in the Harlem Renaissance.

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This paper analyzes the essay of Hughes using the New Criticism approach to understand the work based on the text itself.

Abandonment of Race and Spirituality

‘I want to be a poet—not a Negro poet’ is the remark of a young Negro in what the author believes is an abandonment of race and spirituality. The author asserts that greatness comes with the acceptance of one’s identity. Hughes examines the background of this poet as someone belonging to the middle class and compares this artist to the low class. The middle class is a picture of contrasting beliefs and actions. They are black in nature, but they act as what White people do. ‘In the home, they read white papers and magazines’ implies the deep root of Whitewashing, which is embedded in the family’s values and culture. If the children do something bad, they are compared to the White children saying ‘don’t be like niggers.” This middle-class family regards themselves as inferior to White people because of the ideology of the symbol of Black as bad, ugly, and poor. Hughes thinks that the artist belonging to this class will never be a great poet because only those who can see the ‘beauty of his own people’ can celebrate true artistry.

Hughes identifies the ‘mountain’ in the essay, which refers to the ‘high class’ of society who has the occupation of a ‘doctor, lawyer, landowner, politician, teacher, and social worker.” The ‘high class’ has completely eradicated the trace of their African-American culture by going to a ‘fashionable church’ where ‘few colored faces are to be found’ and marrying the lightest skin among the colored women. People belonging to this class are the obstacles in achieving the reformation of Black Art because they accommodate the standard of society by acting like White people.

The third class belonging to the ‘low-down folks’ is what Hughes perceived as the liberating era for black art. The essence of a great poet belongs to this class because the ‘low-down folks’ celebrate true black art through jazz music – a symbol of black culture. They uphold their culture by wearing a ‘wealth of colorful, distinctive material,’ singing their songs in a loud voice, and expressing their individuality through accepting what beauty is and never conforming to American standards. The author calls for the revolution and transformation of African-American in accepting their individuality.

‘Be respectable’ and ‘be stereotyped” are the words coming from White and colored people due to their indifferences when they see Black Artists. People are afraid to see the truth in what they read; for instance, the prose of Cane is written in a racial context, and ‘colored people hate it.’ Hughes appeals to the colored people to stop the ‘Nordicized Negro Intelligentsia’ and thanks the emergence of Black


Artists for standing up to their ideals. Freedom can only be achieved if the colored people have the desire to break the norms of society and start listening to the ‘tom-tom of revolt’ against the perception of the black race that black is ugly and beautiful. Only by accepting this can freedom be truly felt.

To be a great poet, one must embrace their individuality, including its beauty and ugliness. Hughes’s essay is a calling for the Black race to never be ashamed of who and what they are through their art; hence, they must overcome the mountain, which is their self.


  1. “The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s” by James Edward Smethurst

  2. “African American Visual Arts: From Slavery to the Present” by Celeste-Marie Bernier and Hannah Durkin


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The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain Summary. (2023, Aug 18). Retrieved from