Study Guide

Beale Street Love Race

By Langston Hughes

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"Beale Street Love" is set on – surprise, surprise – Beale Street, a center of African-American culture and blues music. Langston Hughes was well known for addressing the black experience in his poetry, and yet there is very little explicit discussion of race in this poem. Nevertheless, we know from the title, and from the use of the word "brown" that the people in the poem are black, which roots our poem in a very specific cultural context. Of course this begs the question: how does that context affect our reading of this poem?

Questions About Race

  1. How do you think the poem would be different if the man's fist were not brown? In other words, would it change your reading of the poem if it were about people of another race?
  2. Do you think this poem's idea of love applies to all races universally? Why or why not?
  3. How do you think readers would view the racial theme in this poem if it were written today, as opposed to 1926?
  4. How do you think the black literary community responded when this poem was published? Do a little digging and see what you can come up with. You might be surprised.

Chew on This

"Beale Street Love" depicts a love that is unique to Beale Street. This type of relationship is not universal.

While the characters in this poem are African-American, its insights apply to human love in general.

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