Madam’s Past History

By Langston Hughes 1902–1967 Langston Hughes
My name is Johnson—
Madam Alberta K.
The Madam stands for business.   
I’m smart that way.

I had a
HAIR-DRESSING PARLOR   
Before
The depression put
The prices lower.

Then I had a
BARBECUE STAND   
Till I got mixed up   
With a no-good man.

Cause I had a insurance   
The WPA
Said, We can’t use you   
Wealthy that way.

I said,
DON’T WORRY ’BOUT ME!
Just like the song,
You WPA folks take care of yourself—
And I’ll get along.

I do cooking,
Day’s work, too!
Alberta K. Johnson—
Madam to you.

Langston Hughes, “Madam’s Past History” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Source: Selected Poems (Vintage Books, 1959)

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Poet Langston Hughes 1902–1967

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Persona

 Langston  Hughes

Biography

Langston Hughes was first recognized as an important literary figure during the 1920s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance" because of the number of emerging black writers. Du Bose Heyward wrote in the New York Herald Tribune in 1926: "Langston Hughes, although only twenty-four years old, is already conspicuous in the group of Negro intellectuals who are dignifying Harlem with a genuine art life. . . . It is, however, as . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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