Analyzing Ballad of the Landlord and I, too

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“During the Harlem Renaissance, it was the development of the African American culture. This was called the “New Negro Movement.” It was the most important movement in African American history, embracing literary, musical, theatrical, and visual arts. African Americans started to reveal their emotions in forms of art: they expressed their struggles with discrimination, violence, and injustice through poetry and songs. Langston Hughes, a famous poet started to emerge during the Harlem Renaissance. His poems were mainly focused on the daily struggles African Americans went through during the early 1900s. In two of his most memorable poems, “Ballad of the Landlord” and “I, Too,” Hughes addresses two situations that were both relatable to the issues of injustice.

In Langston Hughes’s poem, “Ballad of the Landlord,”” Hughes is focusing on the racism and discrimination that was going on in the 1900s. Hughes is portraying a story of an African American tenant’s troubles with a Caucasian landlord by theme, tone, dialect, and using several speakers. There are four speakers: the tenant, landlord, police, and the judge. Hughes addresses the issue of discrimination that is race as well as class. In the first stanza, it says “My roof has sprung leak./ Don’t you ‘member I told you about it/ Way last week?” This is showing that one of the speakers, the tenant is in a lower class than his landlord. It is also showing that the landlord does not care what condition is house is in when money is coming in. Hughes uses dialect to make the poem feel like its reality. Inline six, it says, “These steps is broken down,” and other words such as “ain’t” and “gonna” show a clear image of an African American speaking. Later, in the poem the dialect and tone change in stanza 5 when it says “If I land my fist on you.” The tenant became frustrated and fed up with landlord because the landlord was not fixing the house.

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The poem takes a huge shift when the landlord says “Police!/ Come and get this man!/ He’s trying to ruin the government!/ And overturn the land!” when all the tenant wanted was for the house to be repaired. The police and judge were not being fair at all. They put the tenant in jail for 90 days with no bail. They didn’t ask questions on what happened. This demonstrates how mistreated African Americans were treated by Caucasians in the 1900s.

In the poem, “I, Too” Hughes is writing about slavery, inequality, and denial of rights. Hughes wrote this poem to express how he felt like an abandoned American because of the color of his skin tone and how he still had great hope for African Americans sometime. Even though, he gets pushed away and refers to himself as “the darker brother” he is still claiming that he is an American and he will continue to sing America. In the first stanza, Hughes our speaker says “I, too, sing America.” This is demonstrating that this is his anthem. This also shows Caucasians are not the only Americans, but African Americans are also citizens and should be treated equally. In the second stanza, Hughes says “I’ll be at the table/ When company comes/ Nobody’ll dare/ Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen.” Hughes is saying that he will join others at the table and no one will dare send him back to the kitchen. He goes on to say that they will see how beautiful he is and how they will feel ashamed for mistreating him. In this poem, Hughes is expressing how African Americans are a valuable part of the country’s population and sees a racial equal society sometime.

Throughout many of Langston Hughes poetry, there is usually a strong theme of racism. In “Ballad of the Landlord” and “I, Too” the speakers are both experiencing similar situations. Both speakers are African Americans who were living and struggling through the Harlem Renaissance. Although, the poems have different problems, the speakers in both poems are dealing with the same conflict: social inequality. “Ballad of the Landlord” and “I, Too” were the perfect examples on the controversial issues going on in the United States during the Harlem Renaissance. Even though Hughes uses African American speakers in his poems, any race who has experienced discrimination and is battling for equality can say these characters. Even, readers who have not experienced discrimination can sense the frustration and hopefulness in Hughes’ poems. This artistic approach gives them a glimpse into another life, and helps shed light on a controversial issue which Hughes believes should not be ignored, but confronted with pride.”

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Analyzing Ballad of the Landlord and I, Too. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from