Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Search Collections
Teaching the American Twenties: Exploring the Decade through Literature and Art


After the War

"The Colored Soldier" by Langston Hughes

When black soldiers returned home, they encountered increased hatred and violence. In April of 1919, ten black veterans in uniform were lynched, some of them burned alive in the South. Langston Hughes addressed this vicious homecoming and the unanswered promise of equality to African-Americans in his dramatic poem "The Colored Soldier." The poem's narrator dreams that his brother, the fallen soldier, takes pride at the equality for which he fought and died. The narrator cries out, "It's a lie! It's a lie! Every word they said. And it's better a thousand times you're in France dead." Written to be performed on stage, this poem dramatizes Hughes's response to post-war discrimination and violence. Under Hughes's stage direction, the rising sense of outrage expressed by the narrator is reflected in the "fierce and angry" reaction of the listening crowd.

Click Image to Get a Closer Look
New York Evening Journal, Feb. 17, 1919" id="view" />
"Old 15th gets great ovation on parade" from the New York Evening Journal, Feb. 17, 1919
New York Evening Journal

Newspaper coverage of the hellfighters' victory parade down Fifth Avenue was extensive in New York. New York Evening Journal (February 17, 1919)

<< previous section | next section >>

Printer-friendly Text