Ali Hayyan


The days of bondage—

And remembering—

Do not stand still.

Go to the highest hill

And look down upon the town

Where you are yet a slave.

Look down upon any town in Carolina

Or any town in Maine, for that matter,

Or Africa, your homeland—

And you will see what I mean for you to see—

              The white hand:

              The thieving hand.

              The white face:

              The lying face.

              The white power:

              The unscrupulous power

That makes of you

The hungry wretched thing you are today

Said American poet Langston Hughes, who was a poet,playwright and social activist of the 20th century. He was also one of the standing figures of the Harlem Renaissance, which took birth in Harlem a black cultural mecca in a part of Manhattan, Langston took literature to rant out his woes of being a black-american in the 1900s. Though Langston lived and left us through the 20th century he has left us a legacy on paper, a potent reminder to the nonsensical hatred and underrated recognition black lives are getting even today.

A strong advocate of black rights, Langston wrote extensively on his travel and his interactions with people of the world. Langston being an american citizen takes digs at the persisting segregation in his country and outside, through his works,  some of his more pointed works are God, Remember, you and your whole race etc. what should sadden us is the fact that His accusation in the above poem stands correct till date if not covered up for. We have a lot of players in the scene demanding and offering equal rights for the ill gotten.

Langston being a humorist has been quoted taking satirical gibes at the situation of black lives. In one of his more prominent essays ”The negro artist and the racial movement” he so elegantly points out how young negros are indoctrinated into feeling debased for being of color. This form of cultural overpowering hits the ladder from the middle downwards, “the whisper ‘i want to be white’ runs silently through their minds” (the negro artist..), all this because they are harassed for their color and racial inclination


Langston Hughes wanted to be a writer but not one who wrote for the pulps and competes with commercial short stories. He wanted to write seriously, gain ground and make a living from it. This he badly wanted but didn’t know how to go about it..that was before he met with the most distinguished madam Mary Mcleod Bethune of the cookman college,Florida. She seeded him with the idea to travel the southside with his poetry, thus beginning the illustrated life of langston hughes. Langston has written in his autobiography that when he feels down, he writes to stop himself from feeling worse. Take a closer look at his works and you’ll find that his works are pointed reminders to the time he lived. Take for example remember. The poem is plain, an experienced gypsy leaving his wisdom to an ill informed world.

Langstons travels along the southside later extended to the whole world. He visited various ethnicities, cultures and colors. But he understood and expressed that wherever be, discrimination lasts in snippets even in the holiest of place, even in the future, he prognosticated he explains;

 “Go to the highest hill

And look down upon the town

Where you are yet a slave”

Langston cautions, sitting atop the highest echelons of society look down where you are still a slave of color.Metaphorically indicates time,wealth and status. Food for thought!. People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

 The talk of the day is once again Racism and its victims. What is racial discrimination ? racism rooted from the historical  ideology that human beings can be branched into different biological entities called ‘races’, that we can be classified linking physical appearances, intellect and other cultural and behavioral facets. But by the 20th century racism has been observed as a cultural innovation with no connection whatsoever to science. Racism illegitimately stamped some races/colors innately superior to others. Which brought to us prejudice-era south africa and the like.

Demonstrators march down Constitution Avenue during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

Fast-forward to last week, when a Minneapolis officer choked George Floyd, a black man to his death. What are the limits to which we can call this racism? This act of hatred was executed in 2020, years after humanity innovated itself, to a great extent, from its radical and barbaric ways.  But only the victims on the receiving end of the battle know that justice has been served in a little to No ratio. Today a lot of people in the states have taken to the streets demanding that justice be served to George Floyd but this has happened before, why is it not enough??.

”I swear to the Lord I still can’t see Why Democracy means Everybody but me.”     

“Negroes – Sweet and docile, Meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day – They change their mind “

                                                                                                                   -Langston Hughes

(Ali Hayyan is BA English student in Calicut University, Kerala)


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