Winold Reiss, Langston Hughes, 1920
Poet Langston Hughes, like many other members of the Harlem Renaissance, was more queer and more radical than many think. Many of his political views are evident in his reportage, especially his 1932 dispatches from the USSR, where he saw people of all races working and studying together freely, noting the stark contrast to Jim Crow apartheid.

“The daily papers picture the Bolsheviks as the greatest devils on earth, but I couldn’t see how they could be so bad if they had done away with race hatred and landlords—two evils that I knew first hand,” he wrote in 1932.

In the U.S., where he is a sanitised, apolitical national figure, poems like these, written in the 1930s, are largely ignored for their socialist and Black internationalist perspective.

(Though his sexual life is less is not as well documented, see Isaac Julien’s film Looking for Langston (1989) for a modern [re]imagining of his gay exploits.)


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.


Good morning, Revolution:
    You're the very best friend
    I ever had.
We gonna pal around together from now on.
Say, listen, Revolution:
You know, the boss where I used to work,
The guy that gimme the air to cut down expenses,
He wrote a long letter to the papers about you:
Said you was a trouble maker, a alien-enemy,
In other words a son-of-a-bitch.
He called up the police
And told 'em to watch out for a guy
Named Revolution.

You see,
The boss knows you're my friend.
He sees us hangin' out together.
He knows we're hungry, and ragged,
And ain't got a damn thing in this world —
And are gonna do something about it.

The boss's got all he needs, certainly,
    Eats swell,
    Owns a lotta houses,
    Goes vacationin',
    Breaks strikes,
    Runs politics, bribes police,
    Pays off congress,
    And struts all over the earth —

But me, I ain't never had enough to eat.
Me, I ain't never been warm in winter.
Me, I ain't never known security —
All my life, been livin' hand to mouth,
    Hand to mouth.

Listen, Revolution,
    We're buddies, see —
    We can take everything:
    Factories, arsenals, houses, ships,
    Railroads, forests, fields, orchards,
    Bus lines, telegraphs, radios,
    (Jesus! Raise hell with radios!)
    Steel mills, coal mines, oil wells, gas,
    All the tools of production,
    (Great day in the morning!)
    Everything —
    And turn 'em over to the people who work.
    Rule and run 'em for us people who work.

Boy! Them radios —
Broadcasting that very first morning to USSR:
Another member the International Soviet's done come
Greetings to the Socialist Soviet Republics
Hey you rising workers everywhere greetings —
    And we'll sign it: Germany
    Sign it: China
    Sign it: Africa
    Sign it: Poland
    Sign it: Italy
    Sign it: America
    Sign it with my one name: Worker
On that day when no one will be hungry, cold, oppressed,
Anywhere in the world again.

    That's our job!

    I been starvin' too long,
    Ain't you?

Let's go, Revolution!


Put one more s in the U.S.A.
To make it Soviet.
One more s in the U.S.A.
Oh, we'll live to see it yet.
When the land belongs to the farmers
And the factories to the working men —
The U.S.A. when we take control
Will be the U.S.S.A. then.

Now across the water in Russia
They have a big U.S.S.R.
The fatherland of the Soviets —
But that is mighty far
From New York, or Texas, or California, too.
So listen, fellow workers,
This is what we have to do.

Put one more S in the U.S.A.
[Repeat chorus]

But we can't win by just talking.
So let us take things in our hand.
Then down and away with the bosses' sway —
Hail Communistic land.
So stand up in battle and wave our flag on high,
And shout out fellow workers
Our new slogan in the sky:

Put one more S in the U.S.A.

But we can't join hands together
So long as whites are lynching black,
So black and white in one union fight
And get on the right track.
By Texas, or Georgia, or Alabama led
Come together, fellow workers
Black and white can all be red:

Put one more S in the U.S.A.

Oh, the bankers they all are planning
For another great big war.
To make them rich from the worker's dead,
That's all the war is for.
So if you don't want to see bullets holding sway
Then come on, all you workers,
And join our fight today:

Put one more S in the U.S.A.
To make it Soviet.
One more S in the U.S.A.
Oh, we'll live to see it yet.
When the land belongs to the farmers
And the factories to the working men —
The U.S.A. when we take control
Will be the U.S.S.A. then.


Comrade Lenin of Russia,
High in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And give me room.

    I am Ivan, the peasant,
    Boots all muddy with soil.
    I fought with you, Comrade Lenin.
    Now I have finished my toil.

Comrade Lenin of Russia,
Alive in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And make me room.

    I am Chico, the Negro,
    Cutting cane in the sun.
    I lived for you, Comrade Lenin.
    Now my work is done.

Comrade Lenin of Russia,
Honored in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And leave me room.

    I am Chang from the foundries
    On strike in the streets of Shanghai.
    For the sake of the Revolution
    I fight, I starve, I die.

Comrade Lenin of Russia
Speaks from the marble tomb:
On guard with the workers forever —
The world is our room!


I speak in the name of the black millions
Awakening to action.
Let all others keep silent a moment.
I have this word to bring,
This thing to say,
This song to sing:

Bitter was the day
When I bowed my back
Beneath the slaver's whip.

That day is past.

Bitter was the day
When I saw my children unschooled,
My young men without a voice in the world,
My women taken as the body-toys
Of a thieving people.

That day is past.

Bitter was the day, I say,
When the lyncher's rope
Hung about my neck,
And the fire scorched my feet,
And the oppressors had no pity,
And only in the sorrow songs
Relief was found.

That day is past.

I know full well now
Only my own hands,
Dark as the earth,
Can make my earth-dark body free.
O, thieves, exploiters, killers,
No longer shall you say
With arrogant eyes and scornful lips:
“You are my servant,
Black man—
I, the free!”

That day is past—

For now,
In many mouths—
Dark mouths where red tongues burn
And white teeth gleam—
New words are formed,
With the past
But sweet
With the dream.
Strong and sure,
They sweep the earth—

Revolt! Arise!

The Black
And White World
Shall be one!
The Worker's World!

The past is done!

A new dream flames