Voices Essay Chapter 15: entries 7 and 8
The two Langston Hughes poems "Ballad of Roosevelt" and "Ballad of Landlord" embody the outcry from the downtrodden African-American community during the Great Depression. "Ballad of Roosevelt" shows how poor the majority could be, and the basic needs that they were forced to go without while awaiting public aid that never seemed to come. In "Ballad of Landlord" the narrator opens by asking for better living conditions, and ends up serving a term in the County Jail.
The unfortunate truth in "Ballad of Roosevelt" is that the trust that the narrator starts out with vanishes by the fifth stanza when "Pa said, I'm tired/ O' waitin' on Roosevelt,/ Damn tired O' waitin' on Roosevelt." From that point on, Langston Hughes' poem presents the widespread disbelief in the President within the African American community. It shows a belief that the President had either forgotten the problems that they were faced with, or did not bother to reach out and grant them promised aid. It is interesting, however, to note the measures that President Roosevelt had taken to attempt to rectify racial separation in the economy that left African Americans coming up short. African Americans fared well under Roosevelt's New Deal Programs. Unfortunately, however, there is truth in Langston Hughes' references to African Americans not having the ability to gain jobs in the booming pre-war and wartime industrial boom. Eventually black Americans in the 1940s refused to accept a segregated military or lack of access by blacks to government jobs in the war industries. The African-American leader A. Philip Randolph threatened in 1941 to lead 50,000 blacks in a non-violent "March on Washington D.C." to secure fair employment in the war industries. President Franklin Roosevelt responded by opening the defense industries to equal employment, monitored by the Fair Employment Practices Agency.
"Ballad of the Landlord"...
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