‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes.
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Photo: Carl Van Vechten via Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Collection

Langston Hughes (1902–1967) was an American poet that was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 20th century. His work often explored Black intellectual, creative and artistic life, and his extensive body of work — including poems, essays, and fiction — has grown to be hugely influential in the course of American poetry.