Theme for English B by Langston Hughes
The instructor said,

 Go home and write
 a page tonight.
 And let that page come out of you—
 Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
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.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and then I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records — Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.


  1. Read the poem twice. Try to pay attention to the punctuation.
  2. What are your first reactions to this poem? (Like? Dislike? What kind of person wrote it? Theme? Lesson? Message?)
  3. The word "true" in line #5 most likely means: a) factually correct, b) truly personal and important, c) straight, d) believable.
  4. The word "theme", as it is used here, most likely means: a) what the poem is really about, b) what the poem relates to, c) another name for a piece of writing, d) none of the above.
  5. Why do you think he spends so much of the poem explaining how he goes home?
  6. What point do you think he is trying to make when he describes what he likes?
  7. What does he mean by, "...but I guess I'm what I feel and see and hear..."?
  8. What does he mean by, "So will my page be colored that I write? Being me it will not be white."?
  9. What does he mean by, " I am a part of you."? Do you think that's true?
  10. What does he mean by, "That's American"?
  11. What do you think Mr. Hughes wants us to get out of this poem?
  12. Go home and write a page tonight (Due next Tuesday, actually.) You have the same directions Langston Hughes had. I want a paper/poem/whatever, that only you could have written.
Here are a few examples of previous student work.

Here is the lesson for the second day, including the poem "Motto."

Here is the quiz for after.

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