Tuesday, March 24, 2009
photography by Charles R. Smith Jr.
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Genre: Poetry (single poem illustrated)
The poem, My People, by renowned poet Langston Hughes has been a treasured piece of literature for generations. While the poem is simple, its simplicity is what gives it its powerful message. Langston Hughes wrote the poem in the 1920s, during the height of racism in this country. I think the goal of this poem is to convey the natural beauty of African Americans, and celebrate the diversity that exists within black people as it exists in nature.
Photographer Charles R. Smith recently took the poem by Langston Hughes, and paired it with sepia photographs which he felt expressed pictorially the message Hughes expressed in words. The photos are exquisite and provide a dynamic juxtaposition with the simply stated poem. Smith states, "To me, the words celebrate black people of differing shades and age, so I wanted to show skin color as bright as the sun and as dark as the night; I wanted to show the newness of a newborn smile and the wisdom of the wrinkled skin. But, more than anything, I simply wanted to show that like any other group of people, black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique."
I would recommend this illustrated poem for early elementary classrooms. It is a powerful poem that provides a positive message. Charles R. Smith has taken a timeless poem and modernized it for today's students. It is a wonderful piece to introduce students to African American poets like Langston Hughes and to the genre of poetry as a whole.