The Big Sea: An Autobiography Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. Why did Hughes throw all of his books overboard while traveling to Africa? What did this act symbolize?

Hughes wanted to let go of his past and everything his books and schooling stood for. He wanted to start fresh and feel he was in control of his life. His voyage to Africa was the first step in this new beginning, and throwing his books overboard freed him from his past. He was beginning a new life on his voyage to Africa, the homeland of his race.

2. What was Hughes's ethnic heritage? How did this affect his travels in Africa?

Hughes was born in 1902 as a lighter-skinned black man. He was of mixed heritage, his parents being a mixture of French, English, African and Native American descent. When he traveled in the African port towns, he realized that people in Africa did not consider hem a black man because he was so light skinned. In Africa, light brown was different than black African.

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