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Du Bois is one of the Black authors whose writing first inspired Hughes. The Souls of Black Folk made a particular impression on him in its discussion of the African American musical tradition of spirituals, which Du Bois referred to as “sorrow songs.”
Like “The Weary Blues,” Hughes's poem “I, Too” appeared in his debut poetry collection, The Weary Blues in 1926. It appeared under the title “Epilogue.”
Butler’s novel shares with Hughes’s poem an investment in understanding the legacy of slavery in the United States. Whereas Butler explores this legacy using the science fiction trope of time travel, Hughes explores it by writing about a form of music deeply tied to the history of Black enslavement.