This poem was written by Langston Hughes (1902-1967);a black American poet. He worked as a sailor and a cook before he devotedhimself to literature. He was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance andbesides writing poetry he also wrote novels, books for children, songs and newspapercolumns. In this poem he specifically and categorically addresses the situationthat a Negro tenant finds himself against a White landlord during the time ofracial tension in America.

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The poem exposes the main conflict that existed inAmerican society between the Americans of African origin against the WhiteAmericans. The reaction of both parties resulted into new conflicts withoutsettling the previous ones. In the poem the Landlord is in conflict with his blacktenant because of the house rent. The tenant agrees to pay on a condition thatthe house which has sprung a leak and the broken stairs should first berepaired. The landlord threatens to evict him from the house and the tenantthreatens to beat the landlord.
The conflict intensifies when the tenant is arrestedand sent to jail without fair trial for threatening the Landlord.
The poem shows the problems of racial prejudices andracial injustice. Blacks were treated as second class citizens in America. Theywere not given their basic human rights and they had to fight for their rightsby every possible means. The poet shows how racial tension grew to a point ofresulting to a serious quarrel between the tenant and the Landlord. The use ofthe word “Negro” which is an offensive word used to refer to Black Americanssuggests that the blacks are abused in this society by their Whitecounterparts. Blacks are sent to jail without bail, nor fail trial.
-May 24, 2019


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