Collective Memory in "Aunt Sue's Stories"
The theme of collective memory refers to the memory of Africa, the slave trade, the plantations, and day to day oppression that African Americans experienced. Through the poems with this theme, Hughes was able to keep the past alive so it wasn't forgotten. He wanted Blacks to remember their ancestors and what they went through. The use of black linguistics and musical forms convey this theme. The way he allows vernacular voices to shape his poetry make his works his own. Collective Memory is shown best in his poem, "Aunt Sue's Stories."
"Aunt Sue's Stories" is about "memory and its transmission through the family unit: Aunt Sue, an African-American woman who has endured the brutality and sorrows of slavery, tells stories of her life to one of her descendants and thus helps keep African-American collective memory of slavery alive" (Jordan 861).
"And the dark-faced child, listening.
Knows that Aunt Sue’s stories are real stories.
He knows that Aunt Sue never got her stories
Out of no book at all,
But that they came
Right out of her own life" (Jordan 860)
This stanza in the poem shows that Aunt Sue was a witness to slavery. Her mind and body remember these experiences, and now she is sharing her stories with the younger generation. In doing this, Aunt Sue is teaching them what happened in the past to African Americans. Hughes wrote this poem to show his readers that Blacks will never forget their past, and that what happened will not go away. This poem and central theme reiterate how Hughes took pride in his color and his people's history.