Theme for English B – a Colored’s Yearning for Equality

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Theme for English B – A Colored’s Yearning for Equality
In Langston Hughes poem “Theme for English B”, the setting begins as the student is instructed to “go home and write a page tonight”, which raises a question for him: who am I? In contrast to this ordinary assignment, the main character doubts “I wonder if it’s that simple?” which confuses the readers. Only when the detailed background information of the protagonist is provided does this confusion be removed, “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.” This is also the rising action of the plot, by describing how a colored youth perceived the world in a nation of whites. All these literary elements serve as a foil to the issue of ‘identity’, which is the theme of the poem. Through the psychological conflict of a young college freshman, the author brings up the history of African Americans, his attitude towards racism and his view of black’s identity.

For centuries, a majority of whites had turned a deaf ear to African Americans’ struggle for equality. These blacks were never recognized as pure Americans or Africans, they did not have history of their own in that foreign piece of land and they even speak a broken language that was not their native one. They were enslaved by the whites, they had no money or power, all they possessed was a strong feeling of inferiority. However, things started to change in the 1920’s as a literary movement which centred in Harlem took place, aiming to point out the injustices of racism in American life, and to promote a more unified and positive culture among African Americans. This was the famous Harlem Renaissance. Participants sought to reconceptualize “the Negro” apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced black peoples’ relationship to their heritage and to each other. During this period, many Americans started to look...
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