Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Theme for English B

Assignment: Listen to the recording of Langston Hughes’ poem “Theme for English B” above.  Then record an audio or video clip of your response to the following prompt:

Describe a time when you felt confined by a place, system, or person/group of people. How did that experience make you feel?

Theme for English B

By Langston Hughes

The instructor said,

      Go home and write

      a page tonight.

      And let that page come out of you—

      Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?

I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.  

I went to school there, then Durham, then here  

to this college on the hill above Harlem.  

I am the only colored student in my class.  

The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,  

through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,  

Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,  

the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator  

up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me  

at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.

hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.  

(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.  

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.  

I like a pipe for a Christmas present,

or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.

I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like

the same things other folks like who are other races.  

So will my page be colored that I write?  

Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be

a part of you, instructor.

You are white—

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.

Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.  

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that’s true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me—

although you’re older—and white—

and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.