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African American Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class

Hughes poems often rebel against the conditions many African Americans are subjected to in American society. In Ballad of the Landlord, Hughes depicts the slum-like conditions in which many Blacks exist because of being denied access to the means of upward mobility, ˘Landlord, landlord, / My roof has sprung a leak. / DonĂt you remember I told you about it / Way last week? / Landlord, landlord, / These steps is broken down. / When you come up yourself / ItĂs a wonder you donĂt fall downÓ/ÓCopperĂs whistle! / Patrol bell! / Arrest. / Precinct Station. / Iron cell. / Headlines in the press: / MAN THREATENS LANDLORD / TENANT HELD NO BAIL / JUDGE GIVES NEGRO 90 DAYS IN JAIL÷ (in Chapman 432-433).

Like the lack of decent housing, African Americans also suffer from a lack of quality education and are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, as Hughes satirizes in the above poemĂs ending. Such injustices are often systematically reinforced in American society through institutions from the criminal justice system to educational institutions. We see Hughes question the discrimination and limitations against Blacks in the educational system in his poem Theme for English B. He is told to go home and write a page that comes out of him and it will be true. However, the speaker in the poem wonders if that is true, knowing how often white people seldom understand or appreciate Black people. In


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