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Theme for English B

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Theme for English B


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            Theme for English B is a poem written by Langston Hughes about a lone African-American college student tasked to write a one page paper about anything, as long as it is from the student. Racism is the theme of this poem, about how a 22 year old college student sees the racism happening around him. Hughes is known for his “black-pride” works and it is evident in this work as well in his other poems like The Negro Speaks of Rivers where Hughes  talks about how the Negro people have been around much longer than any other race, My People which is about the beauty of the Negro, and Let America be America Again in which Hughes talks about equality, or the lack of it for not just Blacks but also for the “inferior races” (non-white).

This paper would be an analysis of the poem, focusing on the issue of racism.

The Plight of the African-Americans

            Although the poem may appear as a mere anecdote of a 22 year old male African-American, the things that the speaker says in the one page required of him by his English B instructor speaks volumes.

The paper describes how difficult it is for African-Americans to define who they are or what is “true” as referred to by the instructor.

            The first reaction that the speaker had upon hearing the instructions for the paper is wonder. He reflects whether the seemingly simple assignment would be really simple given the circumstances. “I wonder if that’s simple?” (line 6). He wonders if writing what is true is simple because nothing has been simple for African-Americans especially at a time when discrimination towards African-Americans was still prevalent.  Some symbolism related to racism can be interpreted from the geographical location of the school and Harlem. The school is described as to be located on a hill above Harlem, it symbolizes the feeling of superiority that the white people have in that school over the impoverished and minority populated Harlem. Only the presence of the speaker as lone colored student in the school provides hope.

            Hope is something that the speaker definitely does not let go of.  The second part of the poem is the speaker’s defense towards the minorities, saying that they are just like anybody else, having the same likes and needs. “…I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love… I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like the same things other folks like who are other races.” (21, 25-26). Bringing this issue up shows that the speaker has some optimism about their current state.  And by addressing his professor directly, and explaining to him that they are the same, the poem takes form of the “black pride” Langston is known for. “You are white— yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.” (31-32). The issue of racism is pretty obvious in the poem, especially in these last sections of the poem.


            Langston Hughes has made a very simple yet moving poem. What appears to be a more anecdote of a black student actually talks about the very serious issue of racism. Racism is something that has troubled the world since men decided upon themselves that one race is superior to another. It is a shame that it has ever happened in our history and a much bigger shame that it is still being practiced today.

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. “Theme for English B.” Sixth Edition Literature An Introduction To

Reading and Writing. Roberts. Edgar V, Henry Jacobs E. New Jersey: Prentice Hall 2001. 822-823


Cite this Theme for English B

Theme for English B. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/theme-for-english-b/

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