Langston Hughes: Poems

Comparing Elements of Racism and Prejudice in Poetry College

The poems Ballad of the Landlord by Langston Hughes and Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane by Etheridge Knight convey a powerful message about the treatment of African Americans in the early-mid 1900s. The systematic racism displayed in these poems is representative of the early 1900s narrative about the expectation for African Americans to be violent and dangerous people. In each of these poems, their poets reveal how prejudice, privilege, and stereotypes result in undeserving consequences for people of color.

Within the first stanza of Ballad of the Landlord, the language that is used by the tenant reveals that he uses common 1940s African American vernacular. Such phrases include, “Don’t you ‘member I told you about it,” and “These steps is broken down,” (778). For the reader, this establishes key information about the character including his race and social status. In a broader sense, it represents the difference in social strata between the landlord and tenant. Because the tenant is lower on the social pyramid, as well as a minority, he is mistreated by the landlord.

Similarly, in the first stanza of Hard Rock, details about Hard Rock’s appearance are described. The text describes his “...

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