Minstrel Man

By Langston Hughes

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Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was a poet, social activist, novelist and playwright. He was one of the first poets to use art from jazz.


The speaker addresses a basic truth ofsocial perception and individual identity: What you see on the outside does not always show what is happening on the inside. A smile does not necessarily express happiness or pleasure. Sometimes a smile is a mask used to hide thepain within. The speaker does this by using an example of American entertainment. The minstrel show, also known as the Blackface tradition. In this tradition men and women put burnt coal on their face to look darker and would act as slaves who were living happily while in reality the slaves did live such a happy and joyous life. This goes directly with the poem.

The speaker says that he/she hides their pain by demonstrating emotions such as dancing, singing and laughing. The speaker uses words such as suffer to show the deep and excruciating pain that they experience. The speaker says " I die" so show just how excruciating the suffering and emotional pain truly is. The speaker uses free verse to show breaking out from hiding and showing their true selves. The phrase " I have held my pain so long" to show that the speaker is done keeping their emotions to themselves and will not do it anymore.
Terrence Ngassa- Trumpet Jazz solo


This musical ensemble has the powerful trumpet playing. The trumpet playing seems almost joyful and then the drums seem to be more powerful and abrupt. This difference relates to "Minstrel Man", because similarly the musician/speaker seems to be demonstrating or having a joyous facade.