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The Negro Speaks of Rivers (For Langston Hughes)
5.5" x 11"
Pen and ink on paper
1941

In this drawing Aaron Douglas pays homage to poet Langston Hughes and his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers. In the poem Hughes declares, "I bathed in the Euphrates…I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it." He concludes, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” The reclining body is a visual illustration; it echoes the rolling river, and the figure’s knee matches the sharp pyramids and the towering buildings with their smokestacks burning in the distance. Douglas' use of geometric forms and strong silhouettes is informed by African art and also conveys an interest in modernism as well as ideas about what it meant to be a proud, modern African American at the time.

From the Detroit Institute of Arts’ exhibition of selections from the Walter O. Evans Collection (2006)