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Meet Amazing Americans Writers & Artists Langston Hughes
Draft of Langston Hughes's poem about Booker T. Washington
Langston Hughes's poem about Booker T. Washington

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Langston Hughes, Man of the People

Langston Hughes believed in using his art to get across his feelings about politics and injustice. He traveled to other countries to learn how they dealt with racial issues. Despite his own very liberal beliefs, Hughes defended African American activists who held more conservative views. For example, in the 1941 poem "Ballad of Booker T.," Hughes defends Booker T. Washington, a former slave and more conservative advocate for equality. Rather than criticize him, the poet focused on Washington's strategy to gain racial equality:

"Sometimes he had
compromise in his talk--
for a man must crawl
before he can walk
and in Alabama in '85
a joker was lucky
to be alive."

Hughes explained Washington's position by saying he had to "compromise." Have you ever had to compromise, or change your point of view, to get what you wanted?

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