- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”

 

Happy birthday, Langston Hughes! Here are some quotes from his writing:

 

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

 

“We Negro writers, just by being black, have been on the blacklist all our lives. Censorship for us begins at the color line.”

 

“Humor is laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it.”

 

“Like welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.”

 

“The first two or three days, on the way home from school, little white kids, kids my age, 6 and 7 years old, who would throw stones at me. There were other little white kids, 6 and 7 years old, who picked up stones and threw them back at their fellow classmates, and defend me, and saw that I got home safely. So, I learned very early in life that our race problem is not really of black against white, and white against black. It’s a problem of people who are not very knowledgeable, or have small minds, or small spirits.”

 

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

 

“Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.”

 

“They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.”

 

Kids Who Die

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people —
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people —
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die —
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht

But the day will come —
You are sure yourselves that it is coming —
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky —
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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