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News > Culture

#WorldPoetryDay: Langston Hughes Poem Praises Lenin

  • Langston Hughes.

    Langston Hughes. | Photo: United States Library of Congress's Prints

Published 21 March 2019

For #WorldPoetryDay, teleSUR takes a look at Langston Hughes, the U.S. poet who once referred to himself as a communist sympathizer before the term became a dog whistle for any political opponent.

Langston Hughes was a poet from the United States who was born at the dawn of the century in 1901 and lived to the twilight of the Jim Crow era in 1967.


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He was an innovative poet, activist, and writer who stood at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance, the name attributed to the time and place associated with a flowering of Black art, music, and culture, all of which later would later spread out across the country and the world.

Hughes wrote poetry, plays, and works of fiction, and in 1938 when he was 31, traveled to the Soviet Union to help make a movie about the Black struggle against segregation in the U.S. Though the movie never got made, the experience influenced his views and inspired a poem of the experience:

Lenin walks around the world.

Frontiers cannot bar him.

Neither barracks nor barricades impede.

Nor does barbed wire scar him.

Lenin walks around the world.

Black, brown, and white receive him.

Language is no barrier.

The strangest tongues believe him.

Lenin walks around the world.

The sun sets like a scar.

Between the darkness and the dawn

There rises a red star.


The poem uses the figure of Vladimir Lenin as a stand-in for the march of social equality across the world, the hope of racial and economic harmony in the world.

Though Hughes didn’t identify as a communist and claimed to have never read Marxist texts at his congressional trial led by the infamous “Red Scare” Senator Joseph McCarthy, his poem describes an awakening in the world among oppressed people of the world for justice.

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