This is another wonderful book for African-American History month. Langston’s Train Ride begins with Langston Hughes walking down a sidewalk celebrating the publishing of his first book of poems. He then flashes back to the train ride he took to Mexico to see his father when he was 18 years old. As the train travels, he reminisces about his childhood. When the train crosses the Mississippi River, he thinks of what it means to his people, the slaves who were sent “down the river” and Abe Lincoln’s trip on the river “where he saw a slave auction and learned to hate slavery.” His view of the Mississippi brings words to his head. He thinks of other ancient rivers in Africa and begins to write down the words to his first poem: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
This is a powerful book made more so by its incredible illustrations by Leonard Jenkins. It is hard not to be moved by this book and the words of Langston Hughes’ first poem.