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Archive for the ‘Langston Hughes’ Category

MERRY-GO-ROUND by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

colored child at carnival:

 

Where is the Jim Crow section
On this merry-go-round,
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from
White and colored
Can’t sit side by side.

Down South on the train
There’s a Jim Crow car.
On the bus we’re put in the back–
But there ain’t no back
To a merry-go-round!

Where’s the horse
For a kid that’s black?

It wasn’t like young Langston Hughes to get into trouble. But, in 1914, when his seventh-grade teacher moved him and the other African-American students into a separate row in class, he got angry. So he put cards that read “JIM CROW ROW” on the black kids’ desks. He was soon expelled. But a protest rose up among the parents and Langston was eventually allowed to return to school. He had fought back and won a victory: separate seating in his school was no longer permitted.

Although Langston Hughes attended school with whites in Kansas, he wasn't allowed to play sports of join clubs. Signs throughout town read: "No Coloreds Allowed" and facilities for whites and blacks were separate. This anti-black caste system was known as Jim Crow Laws and operated mostly in the Southern United States between 1877 and the mid-1960s. It was used to keep blacks as second-class citizens.

Readers, you might also enjoy: Langston Hughes: When Sue Wears Red.

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Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an African-American poet, novelist, columnist, short story writer, and playwright. His exceptional literary talents were recognized early in life; he was elected class poet at his Lincoln, Illinois elementary school.

Langston Hughes scoffed at the “honor” of the position:

“I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows — except us — that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet.” 

Langston is best associated with the American literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s)  and was one of the pioneers of a new literary form, jazz poetry.

Langston wrote his first jazz poem when he was in high school in Cleveland: “When Sue Wears Red.” Here it is:

When Sue Wears Red

 

When Susanna Jones wears red

Her face is like an ancient cameo

Turned brown by the ages.

Come with a blast of trumpets, Jesus!

 

When Susanna Jones wears red

A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night

Walks once again.

Blow trumpets, Jesus!

 

And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red

Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain.

Sweet silver trumpets, Jesus!

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