Poetry Sunday: Democracy by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was arguably the best and most famous African-American poet of the twentieth century. His poems spoke for people who, even one hundred years after the end of slavery, were not fully free, were not fully able to participate in what we like to think of as our democracy. His poems speak for any who are denied full participation in the political and social life of the country. They still speak for people who cannot wait for things to "take their course" because what good is freedom when they are dead?


by Langston Hughes

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

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
 To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

     Is a strong seed
     In a great need.

     I live here, too.
     I want freedom
     Just as you.


  1. The poem has a great deal of poignancy and relevance today, given the trend for so many state governments to enact laws to make it very difficult for brown and black people to vote, a path straight back to Jim Crow in effect. It is hard to wear the label "democracy" while doing everything possible to deny the vote to a large segment of the population.

    1. Sadly, my state of Texas is one of the leaders in that non-democracy movement. And that is why this poem spoke to me strongly this week.

  2. This poem really speaks to me as I currently live in Oklahoma and see the laws and such.

    1. This poem was published in 1949. Isn't it sad that here we are 72 years later and it is still so relevant?

  3. I have read this poem before, but not recently, and your exchange with one of your commenters about this poem being published in 1949 is so sad. I wonder, will body cams and the existence of cell phone videoss finally push our country into real and complete change? So many times, progress has been one step forward and two steps back. We don't need steps anymore. We need a gigantic jump. The future of our country depends on it, I think.

  4. "when will they ever learn"... sometimes it's hard to credit humans being smart when they behave so tribally...

    1. Yes, it does make one wonder how we have ever survived as a species.

  5. Why has this taken so long? It's such a simple request.

    1. Indeed it is and so sad that it still has to be asked.

  6. Power poem. Thank you for sharing it, Dorothy!

    1. Langston Hughes was a powerful poet. I'm always happy to feature his work.


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