CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE In his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (p. 929), Hughes asserts his respect for the “common people,” those he admires for their lack of self-importance: But then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority-may the Lord be praised! The people who have their nip of gin on Saturday nights are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round. They live on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else …. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardizations.
How does Hughes depict the “common people” in his poetry? What are their concerns? How have America's “standardizations” attempted to shape and change the common people, and what has been the result of those attempts?