Langston Hughes
Theme for English B (1951)


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.

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