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 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Langston Hughes's poem Theme For English B

42 Comments

  1. MARIA says:

    ITS A BIT CONFUSING BUT I LIKE IT BECAUSE IT GOT TO DO WITH RACES PEOPLE

  2. Janet says:

    In this piece Hughes does not champion equality and civil rights nor does he rant for separatism. Hughes acknowledges in this exceptional poem that social conventions and prejudices have colored everything that you are, regardless if you merit it or not. He goes out and tells the reader that there are differences in the races but only so far as each individual is different. The last stanza makes it clear that as Americans the cultural smoothie so to speak that we are should only make each person stronger not tear us apart, even though other are “somewhat more free.”

  3. Anu says:

    When normal white people saw a colored boy in their classroom, they must have thought the poet was an alien, another species. But on the contrary, Hughes is just as human as them. He goes through same emotional stages and has goals for his life. He just wants everyone to acknowledge the fact that he is a human, a fellow American.

  4. Krista says:

    In this poem, Hughes approaches the topic of a young man trying to figure out his place in society as the only African American student in his college class. The narrator has a history, a home, an assignment, hobbies, and things he likes just like any other “normal” white citizen. He decides that what he is is what he sees and feels, and the color of his skin should not play a large role. In the end, it does; there will always be differences between the Caucasian and African American citizens in America because of prejudicial issues stemming from slavery and persisting racial bias. Despite this, the narrator acknowledges that they are a part of each other and America is only America with all the different people in the cultural melting pot.

  5. Adam says:

    In this poem, the narrator seems to question himself as an African American male. He acknowledges that he likes the same basic things many individuals enjoy by listing things he likes. Also, he recognizes differences in race, but overall everyone shares the same qualities that makes them Americans.

  6. Kelsey says:

    Hughes in this poem shows a lot about the life of a young colored man. He has deal with the racism and issues of society yet he is still a person just like a what man. He likes the same things a white man would like but he knows that no matter what there are differences that cannot change between races.

  7. Margaret says:

    The poem seems to be about how Hughes feels being African American in a country made up of more whites than blacks. He points out that both whites and blacks are American, and that differences makes up America as a country. He says that he has the same likes as other races do but continues to return to thinking that he will always be seen as different.

  8. mcbaadjie says:

    am johannesburg universuty student, am currently writing assignment of this poem and I love this poem. the speaker reveal more about his identity. he discribe his race throuhg by mentioning the word”colored” in line two of first stanza, place in form/term of time and writing. hope enjoy the little that I have discussed.

  9. kelle says:

    this is an awsome poem here it is so touching and inspiring

  10. marouane says:

    The “theme for English B” diagnoses the internal relationship between the poet and the land of his society (America). The double conciseness that affiliated with the poet’s psychological point of view (piece of mind) gives poem readers (African Americans) a connection between their roots (Africa) and their country (America). The influence of these two elements (race and class) on the poet’s pedagogy drives his thoughts toward a positive critical thinking. The poet prescribes that psychological manner, which consists of diversity, ethnicity, and race in this country.

  11. christina says:

    the literary techniques: plot, character, setting, tone, point of view, symbols, and themes. i love this poem. its very powerful, and it speaks to everyone in the world–not just americans. the round protagonist in this poem is conveyed as the voice of reason- but it is not himself Hughes is conveying, its his race. the way the teacher talks is in a rhyme scheme, which seems to bring the seed that the teacher planted into his head about being poetic and abstract. this poem shows that the white man has more freedoms than himself, but in america, it is more than just black and white. he has the chance to explain to his white professor about his african american background. although, when you have less rights than the person you are trying to explain to, it makes the explanation more difficult.
    the protagonist seems to question why specific races think they are superior-he says they all make up america. and even more than that, they all make up our world.
    his “assignment” shows the angle at which he is trying to explain. he needed a solution to the problem that his being conveyed. his outcome leads to a revelation of truth…everyone is the same. that all people have a symbiotic relationship-all rely and gain from each other… and this relationship is inevitable.
    the climax of this comes when the protagonist opens the readers eyes to views of racism, social status,and political equality in america.
    i found three themes:
    1. people are more alike than different.
    2. ethnicity doesnt alter interests
    3. race doesnt define who you are.
    hope this helps.

  12. Sarah says:

    This is a wonderful poem, as Langston Hughes is a wonderful poet. I have read many of the reviews and see that many people feel as though the speaker in this poem is being segregated against in his life. I do not see that to be the case. I believe the speaker in this poem (btw, the speaker is not Hughes, as Hughes was a middle aged man when he wrote this poem) is segregating himself from a white society. I just wrote a 5 page paper arguing this idea. Many things the speaker says in the poem show that the instructor and other students are not the ones making a big deal about the fact that he is colored, but it is him who consistently is stating that he is colored and does not wish to be a part of the white society.

  13. Shannon says:

    powerful poem

  14. Fatima says:

    I am a Moroccan student and i happened to study this poem in my modern poetry class . Langston hughes ‘ s poem reasons the issue of racial segregation. There are more reasons than feelings and also a lot of implicit arguments. This poem is factual and there is an argument that builds up little by little that there is no ground for racial discrimination.”part of u, instructor” here the speaker means that they share the same culture and that they are equal. In this poem, there is a symbiotic relationship, as the pupil relies on his instructor and vice versa.

  15. Kathryn Howard says:

    I agree with most all the comments posted about this poem and Hughes. I like the poem a lot and I found Hughes expressed about the commonalities we all share.

    But what I haven’t read is this:

    This poem is not an autobigrphical. The young speaker is a character invented by Hughes when he a middle-aged man/author. Just FYI, because this was not a true assignment for him at the time he wrote this poem, but I do believe it reflects back to many events/assignments he had when he was in his early twenties.

    I respect this poem, and the man.

    -K.

  16. Charles W. Brown says:

    This poem talks about the racism in America. The world need to know that racism still exist in this country. Regardless of advances at this particular time,still racism is the diet of this country. Why did people such as Stokley Carmmichael,ect., left this country to go to another country? Because of the propaganda that this country established since 1555. When you expose the hand, you are considered a threat to Natoinal Security. Remember, in Washington, D.C. they call the Oval Office the White House.

  17. Fanny says:

    i am a Chinese student and happened to learn this poem in our literature class.i like Hughes’s way of picturing what was happening to him in his daily life.may be he’s being taught that he’s just the same as others yet the reality told him things were not for being black. i think it’s not about the racialism. he just wanted to express his confusion and asked for more equality from people around him. He had made the point very clearly that whatever we accept or not, we are part of each other.

  18. Arthur says:

    I am in a deep pit of dispair over this poem. I have to analyze it and write a 4 page essay on the central idea of this poem and am having way too hard of a time doing it. It seems pointless to me to write 1000 words on something that can be summed up in 100. It’s an alright poem, but then again I never really liked poetry in t he first place, I’d rather listen to a song, it’s more entertaining.

  19. Melissa Thomas says:

    I like this poem very much.

  20. beth Diemer says:

    An earlier comment was that the teacher in Hughes’ “Theme” was “robotic.” I’m not so sure I agree. For example, the speaker of the poem doesn’t say that this professor merely espoused “truths” that he/she expected his/her students to quietly accept, status quo “truths” at that, but that he/she confirmed that whatever the students’ wrote that night would be accepted as “true.” What’s more, the “truths” that they found were not to be empirical in nature, but come from their hearts. Therefore, the instructor is essentially saying that whatever they felt was as “true” as fact, and the fact that the instructor gives them this assignment at all tells me he/she is willing to accept such a notion. True, the professor is used to white truths; the speaker is the only black person in the class. I think, however, the speaker takes advantage of the freedom of the assignment to assert his freedom with what I have always felt is such pride and dignity. I think he is hoping, and for good reason, that the professor will be open to accepting the truths that he sets down on the page in order to fulfill the assignment. Personally, I have always felt too that the professor was thrilled to have received “Theme.” Given the premise for the poem, I think the instructor would be thrilled that this speaker/student hit the “voice” nail right on the head.

  21. Iva says:

    I actually live in Bermuda.

    Hughes does precisely as instructed. He writes from his heart whatever comes to his mind. It’s almost like brainstorming except that he provides a journey, leading the reader to his exact location physically, mentally and perhaps emotionally. Through this process, he introduces himself.

    What appeals to me are the comparisons. He identifies himself with others outside his race when he says he likes the same things. It’s almost as though he questions why others see themselves as different or superior. His reference to his teacher possibly learning from him suggests equality in the sense that everyone has something to contribute that’s worthy of recognition or consideration.

    While I think rhyme would have raised the appeal of the poem, I appreciate the candor. There’s evidence that Langston started his homework immediately. This fact suggests that the assignment not only motivated him to write, but it caused him to think. The outcome is a path of reflection and perceptions, which leads to a revelation of truth — that everyone is the same.

  22. john says:

    people keep saying that this poem is not about racism and that it is about equality, but the argument of racism is in fact that races are not equal. so hughes is talking about equality although he doesnt like equality as in being an equal and identical person to a white, he wants equality in being seen as a person and getting the same rights and recognitions for his work. hughes embraces being a black poet and emphasizes pride, and that his pride should be recognized.

  23. Ashley says:

    It is not exactly about racism, but the point that he is trying to make is that we all are apart of each other whether or not we want to be.
    His teacher feels as if he should feel grateful for being able to attend an all white college. Then he has to write a paper and then all of his feelings burst out, with that he gets on the fact that he has to write on a white piece of paper, for a white teacher, and whatnot. So whatever ethnic background we come from, eventually we all have the ability to melt together….The End.

  24. elf902 says:

    I’m using this poem for a Speech Tournament. I’m compiling this with Let America be America and Democracy. I hope it will be good, i really want to win a medal.

  25. Veronica Ochoa says:

    Upon analyzing this poem this is what I have come up with:

    Langston Hughes uses EDUCATION as a device that highlights other important factors that can be looked over quite easily.

    To begin with, this poem is not merely just about race, but about class relations, the inequity within the educational system, and the distortion of North American History (I despise the context to which the term “American” is used. My Mexican father and Salvadoran mother are BOTH AMERICAN because they were BORN and LIVE in the Americas. Whether or not they had chosen to immigrate to the USA, they would have been Americans nonetheless. Even then, North America encompasses Canada, the USA, and Mexico, so using “North American” is somewhat ambiguous as well)

    The 22-year-old student is asked to write a page…
    And let that page come out of you—
    Then, it will be true.
    I wonder if it’s that simple.

    A black man who can freely express himself during this time (even now if I dare say) To speak about the problems that plague his community to a white professor without being ostracized? Not quite the piece of cake now is it? From that moment forward, the poem is meticulously written so as to incorporate all off his ideas, and some would not even notice.

    Great poem.

  26. Kimberly says:

    I was enamered by the poem and the context of the poem. I love this poem I am doing a research paper on it currently and I am having a ball dtermining what others have thought about this great poem

  27. Stephanie says:

    I agree with many when said they love Langston Hughes. he has a way of telling a short meaninless story and giving it meaning and depth. This poem is one of my favorites!

  28. Yoyo says:

    I knew this poem when i prepared for the application to U of Chicago. It’s in the essay topic options. I think he was only trying to make a self-introduction, and trying to neglect his race by emphasizing it

  29. cathy a. says:

    i don’t get this poem…..i mean im reading it for my english class (we have to write a paper on it) and we discussed it several times and i just don’t get it. i know they areen’t talking about racism, but it looks like that to me becauase they are talking about colored and white people. i think some of his poems are kind of confusing and i don’t get them. im not a big fan of his, but i read some of his poems through junior high, and freshman year at highschool. i just wanted to say that

  30. candii says:

    I like his poems, they are deep and nice. At first I thought it was about racism, but when I read it a couple of times it wasn’t. It actually talked about himeself as a twenty-two year old and the only Africian American in the college he went to. i decided to post a commment on here because I’m doing a reading response on it for English.

  31. Paul says:

    I don’t think the poem is about equality at all. Langston Hughes was a strong advocate of being a “Black-poet” and wanted his African-American peers to stop writing as if they are white.

    “So will my oage be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white.”

    His essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” is all about this topic. I feel the poem is more about pride than equality. Just because there is the word “free” near the end doesn’t mean its the focus of the poem.

  32. Helen says:

    I like this poem because it’s like he’s trying to express his humanity. Sometimes I feel bad because it feels like people see me as a woman before they see me as a human. I think before I am a woman, I have a mind, I have a lust for life and an appreciation for my life, and I have all the basic feelings as any human does. Thus, one should treat me equal as a human because I think and feel the same way as any one else. I think he’s saying the same thing except that he’s a human before he is a black man.

  33. Molly Dorm says:

    I thhink that James Hughes was trying to show everybody that color has turned everyone against each other, and if we could only see past that,we would know what he is trying to tell, and show us.

  34. Philip says:

    I already know about the meaning of this poem. Theres no point in me saying what everyone else has said about this being a plea for equality or saying something about equality.

    I just wish I could find an alternative meaning out of this, something really important that no one else has seen yet, that’s all I really want.

    I focused on the lines of introduction on the teacher, and I concluded that Langston Hughes is merely trying to express reality in abstract form. here in further detail is my statement that focuses on the intro of the teacher.

    The poem “Theme for English B” was a very interesting poem and was able to make me think twice about real life situations and how they can be translated so easily into art. The instructor in this poem is almost like the voice of reason, or someone who guides the reader along to a path. I found the instructor to be like Obe Wan Kinobe in Star Wars, where the instructor is guiding the pupil along by not giving them all the answers, but posing the important questions that will make them think in different ways.
    Upon reading the introduction of Langston Hughes poem called “Theme for English B,” I realized that there’s a lot going on in the opening sequence. Mr. Hughes is discussing his life in this poem in very intimate detail. He immediately brings the reader into his own world with his descriptions of the environment around him and exaplaining the thoughts going on in his head. What made this introduction unique to me is that he pulled his life into the page and showed us how he is living, and ddin’t go for structure or particular elements besides pure expression of his thoughts and environment. The instructor is displayed as a robotic force that is merely giving the students orders to be carried out. I also found it interesting that he made the rhyme scheme work for something that the teacher apparently said. I doubt that the teacher said those very exact words the way that he describes them, but I do think he tried to bring the idea of the seed the teacher planted in his head as being an abstract and poetic concept, in other words, he tried to equivocate something that was poetic in real life into true poetry, and show us the true quality of that statement.
    Overall I feel that this poem was very creative and allowed me to think a lot about the possibility of using everyday people or places in art. Langston Hughes poem made me concieve of possible alternatives to constantly thinking in an abstract form. Instead he used something tangible like his teacher, as a conduit in a greater machine that is his poem. I liked how he was able to take this assignment that was given to him and use it to ponder greater questions of his own existence in this world as a human being. I constantly was suprised in reading over and over the poem and how it made real life seem so surreal. The poem was not calculating in it’s approach to displaying the real world, in other words, it didn’t just summarize things that were going on, but streched into another boundary of thought. The subjects that were covered were also interesting, like discussing racial qualities, and the silliness in trying to differentiate what a person might like, or how they might interpret something based on purely the color of their skin. The author used a lot of reality and imaginative qualities to make something that really evades easy catergorical ideas.

  35. Jennifer says:

    This poem of Lamgston Hughes, I believe, depicts the society at the time. The white man being more free than himself. But mostly his leading theme was that we are America. Everyone: from the wealthy white man to the poorest of blacks. If only Langston could live now to see the melting pot we have become. He would live in happier times, though of course he would have nothing to write about. For those interested another great read of Hughes is his autobiographical journey “I Wonder as I Wander”. It has countless stories about his lectures, many in the South during the time of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

  36. Arik says:

    Hi everybody!
    I have to confess, i’m also a big fan of Hughes. I recommend also on:”Dream Deferred”,”Cross” of Hhghes.enjoy…

  37. Staci says:

    I don’t necessarily believe that he was simply relating to his prof strictly on an American equality standard (We’re both Americans, we’re equal). If it were simply that as what makes them equal, what about the Saudi Arabian and the Japanese men? Are they not equal simply because they do not live in the same country? No, they are equal based on common traits and characteristics of the human.

    And Hughes points this out:
    “I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
    I like to work, read, learn, and understand life”

    Does not everyone like to eat? Does not everyone like to drink? Does not everyone like to be in love, to work, read, understand life? Whether you agree or disagree with me, if you look deeper into your own self you will find this as true, that you like to eat, be in love, search for the answers in life. And this is not limited to Black or White, American or Saudi Arabian or Japanese.

  38. John says:

    Just like to say that Rock writes alot… but i did enjoy reading his (or her) comment. On the subject of the poem, I think that it is beautiful and well written.

  39. Frank says:

    I feel the same way, Kate. I became a fan of Hughes after reading this poem, “Let America Be America Again”, and “I Too Sing America”. I like the points he raises in his poems because I feel that I can agree with a lot of them and I like the fact that he is speaking out against racism and discrimination.
    I think that the point Hughes is trying to make here is that despite the difference in the color of their skin, they are still the same. They learn from each other because they exist together. And whether they like it or not, they will interact and learn from each other. I think that that is what he was trying to say with the paper because he makes it out to be the instructor’s paper and not his because it is white and he is black. When he says that’s American, I think he is saying that is what being American is about. Being about to share things with other people and learn from other people without having to worry about race.

  40. Julisa says:

    i luv dis poem its so original
    it makes no sense but all the sense in the world
    it makes u feel special w/o even noticing it
    its a peice of me and can b a peice of u 2

  41. Gabriela says:

    I believe Langston Hughes was trying to explain to the instructor who he was. He explained to him what he sees on the outside, a black man of 22 years of age. He is African American and and his instructor is white. They are still both human. No matter what the color of their skin is. God created them both, they will always be a part of eachother somehow. In the poem, Hughes describes his path from school to his home. He speaks of walking down a path in to Harlem. I think he is trying to express that he had to work hard to be able to move up towards the college. HE comes from somewhere no one would expect a black man to accomplish anything.

  42. PUMA boy says:

    I really love Langston Hughes, so I liked this poem. The speaker is a 22 year old college student who is studying at Columbia University (Hence: New York City).
    It is in first person as well, and he is a talented student. The setting is, obviously, in New York City, in the 20th century. The theme is that whites and blacks are not that different if you think about it. Blacks and whites may be a seperate skin color, but we are all just regular people. There are 3 stanzas, there is no rhyme, and it is in free verse. It is almost like an autobiography of Hughes, himself.

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