Harlem by 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 Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Source: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Random House Inc., 1990)



6 thoughts on “Harlem by Langston Hughes

    1. Many do explode. They shatter into little pieces only to swept away by the wind and scattered across the ocean. The play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry was partially based on this poem.

    1. You must keep in mind the time period this written. Blacks did not have the options to pursue their dreams. Jim Crow was the law. My parent and grandparents had hopes and dreams back then but racism and discrimination kept them from those dreams. Dreams which were transferred to their children and grandchildren. We take a lot of things for granted assuming everyone had equal rights. They did not then and even now in some cases they still don’t. Even now dreams don’t always come to fruition. Over the years I’ve had to let go of many dreams. They will not bear fruit in my lifetime. I would also suggest seeing or reading the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry.

      1. It is a mindset and a way to protect ourselves that dates back to slavery. I remember my parents used these expressions: “If you’re white your alright. If you’re Brown stick around. If you’re Black get back.” “You must study work twice as hard to get half as far as a white person.”

        They were not trying to discourage me but preparing me for life as a Black person in America. You can have all types of talents, degrees, gifts, be eloquent in speech and be #1 in your field but skin color is still a barrier in this country whether whites acknowledge it or not. For proof just look at how President Obama was treated by the media, Congress, the Senate and the Right Wing Religious Evangelicals during his time in office. Pres. Obama could have accomplished so much more if he had the cooperation of Congress and the Senate.

        More proof is that we now have a Right Wing sociopath narcissist in office who is Making America white again!! As my Dad used to say, The more things change. The more they stay the same.

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