Where is the Jim Crow section
On this merry-go-round,
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from
White and colored
Can’t sit side by side.
Down South on the train
There’s a Jim Crow car.
On the bus we’re put in the back–
But there ain’t no back
To a merry-go-round!
Where’s the horse
For a kid that’s black?

Analysis, meaning and summary of Langston Hughes's poem Merry-Go-Round


  1. Anonymous says:

    What is the theme of the poem?

  2. Byron Kunisawa says:

    The Merry-Go-Round is the perfect metaphor for change from injustice to justice, and to force some of us to understand the complexity of racism and simplicity of equality. This is a perfect example of a “teaching opportunity “. Beautiful!!! Art at its Zenith.

  3. Jay Pea says:

    This black child who comes from “down South” has known racial segregation ever since he was born. He knows that on buses there black people have to sit in the back; likewise, on trains, there are cars reserved for them. Where they have to sit is called the “Jim Crow section”, in reference to the infamous laws forbidding Blacks to mix with Whites in public places.
    This black child is now in the North – a new country to him – and would like to ride on a merry-go-round – a new problem. Indeed, as we are made to understand, there is no Jim Crow section on a merry-go-round for the simple reason that it has neither front nor back. The questions he asks the adult – maybe a white man – can therefore receive no satisfactory answers. Yet we are not really interested in the answers, all the more so as there are none given. Only the child’s questions matter here. They are meant to make us realise that racial discrimination is a purely arbitrary process and that its logic is far from impeccable. This particular case – the merry-go-round – blatantly exposes its intrinsic inanity since the circular shape of the carousel prevents any form of segregation.
    The black child is therefore confronted to a situation where the old rules no longer apply and is at a loss for what to do. Here again, whether he eventually chooses to ride on the merry-go-round or not is quite irrelevant. The point is that he is offered an option he was never allowed to contemplate hitherto. Paradoxically, the world has opened up in the form of a closed circle. But this figure of a circle is first and foremost a metaphor for a perfect – or at least, better – world, freed of all its man-made divisions and therefore returned to its primeval innocence, where anybody can live free regardless of the colour of their skin.

  4. nisma says:

    this poem really made me understand how segregation effects younger children. it must have been so much for him, that he asked if he could get on a merry go round.

  5. dr. harvey says:

    this poem is compiling, truthful, and a emblem to injustice

  6. Student says:

    there is irony in his poem, the light-hearted tone contrasted to the sadness in the normality of racism.

  7. cole says:

    This is not reffering to Rosa Parks, it is simply showing the unfairness the little kid is experiencing. Jim Crow is an old song that was back in those days and in the poem it is refering to the set of laws called the Jim Crow laws. The term jim crow comes from an old comedian that blackened his face with a burnt cork and danced and sang to jump jim crow this rediculous skit making black people look un-human. He came up with this skit after watching a crippled black person doing the same thing on the street

  8. Dani!! says:

    this poem rox my sox!

  9. Becca says:

    I think that Langston deals with more then just one issue when he mentions a merry Go round. Merry go round’s go in circles. I think he laments that racial injustices are like circles that have no end. The fact that he shows up a controversial issue through the eyes of a child is also a poingnant detail.

  10. Anna says:

    The merry-go-round symbolizes the perfect system of life: justice, equality and freedom neatly survive… No back sits for black… No front sits for white: the merry-go-round keeps going around and around, and there’s noone marching at the very top of the row!!

  11. Sophie says:

    this poem is very simple and very interresting but he has to be analysed i think that “there ain’t no back to a merry go round” is irronical

  12. no name says:

    “four stars”

  13. rnr says:

    the poem is merly the confusion of segragation and discrimination threw a child’s eyes. it is writing about how blacks (back then) had no equality or liberty and in my opinion the merry-go-round is symolizing that every spin is change and that we should change and unite all races.

  14. Alysson says:

    Could this poem possible have a double meaning? I agree that the speaker feels he doesn’t have a place on the Merry-Go_round (or in life) and that he doesn’t have the same opportunites as whites. But could it also depict an ideal life where there is no more segragation, but the speaker just doesn’t know how to react becasue the Jim Crow laws, etc have created an instinctive impression that all blacks should be oppressed? Could it mean that Hughes felt people had to want equality in order to understand and repect it and thats why he wrote his poems? Just a thought. I could be way off adn reading way too much into this.

  15. Ryan says:

    This is quite an interesting poem filled with irony and facts. Langston Hughes really stretches the imagination with a simple poem. He makes the reader think about it, there is no back to a merry-go-round!!

  16. Sami says:

    First of all Hughes lived from 1902-1967. Merry go round, is about a black kid who is just trying to get the same benifits in the world as the white kids. The poem how harsh the Jim Crow laws were in the south when children are experts in them.It is a very simple poem that requires minimal analysis.

  17. MAK says:

    I think you guys are all trying to read into this too much. I believe Langston Hughes is simply trying to point out the unfairness of the Jim Crow Law. When things are equal (meaning the circle shape of the merry-go-round) where does the black child stand? Hughes is just trying to wake you up and say look at how unfair this is.

  18. nuku says:

    this poems talks about a law the jim-crow section because you do know that blacks and white were separated and a kid that just wants to ride a horse.

  19. j says:

    this poem isn’t about segregation. this poem shows the difference between the north and the south and a young black child’s view on it. many blacks migrated to the north during the 1920s. the southern blacks were accustomed to seeing segregation in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but when they arrived in the north there were no designated seats on the bus for the colored.

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