Hughes, Langston. 2009. MY PEOPLE. Ill. by Charles R Smith Jr. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416935407 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK- 9]
The combination of Langston Hughes’ poem and Charles Smith’s photographs makes MY PEOPLE an immense success. The celebratory tribute to the African American spirit is evident in Smith’s use of clear and purposeful sepia photographs evoking the mood and tone perfectly. The stark black background enables the images to pop out at the reader and showcases the facial features that Hughes highlights so eloquently in the classic poem.
Although the poem is understated, using a mere 33 words, it is powerful. Hughes uses various aspects of nature to express the beauty of African Americans; young, old, and in-between. “The night is beautiful, so the faces of my people,” is the first stanza of the poem and graces the beginning of the book. Rather than focusing on the negativity of darkness, Hughes sheds light on a previously oppressed culture and shows the reader a people of hope.
Using MY PEOPLE as a guide, readers can create their own book about their cultures by taking photographs of various people and writing a poem to accompany the pictures. The books can be displayed in the library so that patrons can be exposed to different cultures in the community.
Other books for children by or about Langston Hughes and his poetry:
Cooper, Floyd. COMING HOME: FROM THE LIFE OF LANGSTON HUGHES. ISBN 9780399226823
Hughes, Langston. THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS. Ill. by E.B. Lewis. ISBN 9780786818679
By Brandi D. Grant