Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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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.

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Sketch "Among the first sent across" from I was there with the Yanks in France
C. LeRoy Baldridge

"Among the first sent across" from I was there with the Yanks in France: Sketches by C. LeRoy Baldridge (1919). Because African-American soldiers fought so fiercely to break through the German lines, the French division commanders under whom the...

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