Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Dismantling the History of Slavery and Colonization in the Poetry of Mohamed Al-Fayturi and Langston Hughes

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Dismantling the History of Slavery and Colonization in the Poetry of Mohamed Al-Fayturi and Langston Hughes

Article excerpt


In "The Politics of Post Coloniality", Aijaz Ahmad celebrates the efforts to designate the contemporary literature of Africa as post-colonial and thus , to make it available for being read according to the protocols that metropolitan criticism has developed for reading what it calls minority literature (Ahmad 1997: 282). Integral to Ahmad's thesis is an attempt to find common grounds between post-colonial and minority literatures which could be pursued in the black poetry tradition in Africa and the United States. While the painful ordeal of slavery and colonization turned the black people of Africa into a nation of exiles and outcasts, the same experience brings about enormous consequences which bind the black people together triggering literary interaction between black writers from different parts of the world.

In his attempt to challenge colonial hegemony and promote the colonized sense of identity, the Sudanese/African poet, Mohamed Al-Fayturi (1) is engaged in an intercultural dialogue with his master, the African American poet Langston Hughes (2), in order to reconstruct a history devastated by slavery and imperialism. Rooted in a revolutionary basis, the mutual dialogue between them aims to dismantle colonial narratives about Africa and the black people by revising history and rewriting the story of racism and slavery from the viewpoint of the colonized and the oppressed. Carrying the scars of enslavement and hegemony, Langston Hughes and Mohamed Al-Fayturi poetically engage the history of racism and colonization linking the African literary tradition with its counterpart in the United States.

In the beginning of his career, Hughes not only writes folklore poetry but also embodies the emerging spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. In his poetry, he expresses the rising black consciousness and racial pride dismantling narratives of submission integral to African-American literature in the era of enslavement. Undermining the traditional image of what blacks were forced to think of themselves along three hundred years of oppression, Hughes's Harlem Renaissance poetry not only condemns white oppression but also refutes the oppressor's narratives of inferiority which aimed to banish the black people outside human history. Through intensive poetic utterances, Hughes, like Al-Fayturi, turns colonial cultural mythology upside down celebrating Africa as the land of civilizations and the birthplace of his ancestors. Therefore, in the post Harlem Renaissance era and due to Marxist influence; Hughes's poetry is transformed into a dynamics of resistance confronting the damaging consequences of local policies of racism.

Like his master, Langston Hughes, who was attracted to Marxism in the thirties, Al-Fayturi found in Socialist Realism an appropriate means of poetic expression during the era of decolonization. Both poets did not officially join political parties, however, they found in the Marxist/Socialist ideology a broader horizon for black struggle against white oppression. Dudley Randall points out that many black writers found in the Marxist ideology an alternative to the white capitalist system integrated in exploitation and racism. Randall argues:

   Even if black writers did not join the Communist Party they
   were sympathetic toward it and its policy of non-discrimination.
   Black writers did not give up their struggle for Negro rights
   but regarded it as part of the struggle for the rights of
   man everywhere (Randall 1973: 36).

After the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes abandoned the popular trends of his poetry and moved toward a Marxist art prioritizing social and political narratives which reflect the interests of his people. Exploring ethnic issues from a class struggle perspective, Hughes, in the post Harlem Renaissance era, substitutes the folklore poetry of the 1920's with a poetics of protest and confrontation preaching revolution against policies of racism in the United States. …

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