Langston Hughes
Theme for English B (1951)

1

The instructor said,

 

 

 

Go home and write

 

a page tonight.

 

And let that page come out of you--

5

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

9

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,

13

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

17

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?

21

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.

25

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.

29

But it will be

 

a part of you, instructor.

 

You are white--

 

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

33

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!

37

As I learn from you,

 

I guess you learn from me--

 

although you're older--and white--

 

and somewhat more free.

 

 

41

This is my page for English B.


24. Bessie, bop, or Bach: referring to jazz artist Bessie Smith, "be-bop" or dance music, and classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach.