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by Countee Cullen

Incident Summary

Hold onto your hats; this poem's a short one and it goes by pretty quickly. The poem begins with the speaker reminiscing about a happy time in his childhood when he was riding the bus in Baltimore. He catches the eye of another boy and smiles at him. Instead of smiling back, the other boy sticks out his tongue and calls the speaker "nigger." Then the speaker tells us that he spent months and months in Baltimore, but that the only thing he remembers about the city was this incident on the bus. The poem may have begun on a happy note, but it ends very, very, far away from happiness.

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