| Quote #1
Way Down South in Dixie (1, 5, and 9)
This refrain takes us back to the Civil War, because this line can be found a song that was sort of the Confederacy's unofficial national anthem. But there's no patriotic fervor here. Way down South in Dixie is not a good place to be. Hughes is using the line ironically. Unjust death, these lines seem to say, is where Southern ideas of race have led. According to our speaker, Dixie ain't all that great after all.
| Quote #2
They hung my black young lover (3)
Here, the idea of blackness takes the forefront. Check out our "Form and Meter" section for a thorough discussion of the rhythm of this poem, but, basically, the rhythm works so the word "black" has the stress at the center of this line. His blackness seems to be the most important part of this man's identity (at least in the mind of our speaker). It's not that he's young, and not that he's someone's lover—but that he's black. When a certain quality is the probable reason for a person's death, that quality becomes very important.
| Quote #3
I asked the white Lord Jesus (7)
Instead of hearing about the white crowd that probably lynched this man, the only white person we encounter in this poem is none other than the man himself—Jesus. Of course, historically speaking, Jesus probably looked more middle-Eastern than, say, Anglo-American, but the point here is that for this dark girl, Jesus is a white guy. Her god is different from her, racially speaking. And in the terms of this poem, that's more than a little problematic.