The Importance of African American Life and Literature in the 20th Century

Essay by lo_LaurCollege, UndergraduateB+, August 2014

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Lauren McNulty

Professor Amritjit Singh

English 3390

3 February 2014

The Importance of African American Life and Literature in the 20th Century

Racism and segregation were a huge part of American history. African American authors and poets became famous after writing about their experiences, their friends experiences, and their families experiences during the 20th century. Authors such as Langston Hughes and Richard Wright became extremely famous and well known for their stories about American life in America during the 20th century. Understanding issues regarding race and exclusion are relevant to understanding American life and literature in the 20th century.

Hughes' poems capture life as an African American man in the 20th century. His poems tell stories that give the raw details of being an African American man. His most raw poem, "Ballad of the Landlord" shows just how disrespected and poorly treated African Americans were during that time.

Hughes tells the story of a black tenant who is trying to get his white landlord to fix the problems he is having in his apartment. The speaker of Hughes' poem says,

Landlord, landlord,

My roof has sprung a leak.

Don't you 'member I told you about it

Way last week?

Landlord, landlord,

These steps is broken down.

When you come up yourself

It's a wonder you don't fall down.

The landlord is clearly ignoring his tenant's complaints about his apartment because he is black, forcing the tenant to live in poor conditions. The tenant gets very frustrated with his landlord when the landlord makes it clear he's not going to fix the problems. The tenant says,

Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.

Talk on-till you get through.

You ain't gonna be able to say a word

If I land my fist on you.

Even though the tenant never...