Read “Freedom Train” (1947) by Langston Hughes and then answer two of the questions below by commenting on this blog post:

I read in the papers about the
Freedom Train
I heard on the radio about the
Freedom Train
I seen folks talking about the
Freedom Train
Lord, I’ve been a-waitin’ for the
Freedom Train!
 
Down South in Dixie the only trains I see’s
Got a Jim-Crow car set aside for me.
I hope there ain’t no Jim Crow on the Freedom Train,
No back door entrance to the Freedom Train,
No signs FOR COLORED on the Freedom Train,
No WHITE FOLKS ONLY on the Freedom Train.
 
I’m gonna check up on this
Freedom Train.
 
Who’s the engineer on the Freedom Train?
Can a coal-black man drive the Freedom Train?
Or am I still a porter on the Freedom Train?
Is there ballot boxes on the Freedom Train?
When it stops in Mississippi, will it be made plain
Everybody’s got a right to board the Freedom Train?
 
Somebody tell me about this
Freedom Train!
 
The Birmingham station’s marked COLORED and WHITE.
The white folks go left, the colored go right –
They even got a segregated lane.
Is that the way to get aboard the Freedom Train?
 
I got to know about this
Freedom Train!

If my children ask me, Daddy, please explain
Why there’s Jim Crow stations for the Freedom Train?
What shall I tell my children? …You tell me-
’cause freedom ain’t freedom when a man ain’t free.

But maybe they explains it on the
Freedom Train.
 
When my grandmother in Atlanta, 83 and black,
Gets in line to see the Freedom,
Will some white man yell, Get back!
A Negro’s got no business on the Freedom Track!
 
Mister, I thought it were the
Freedom Train!
 
Her grandson’s name was Jimmy. He died in Anzio
He died for real. It warn’t no show.
The freedom that they carryin’ on this Freedom Train,
Is it for real – or just a show again?
 
Jimmy wants to know about the
Freedom Train.

Will his Freedom Train come zoomin’ down the track
Gleamin’ in the sunlight for white and black?
Not stoppin’ at no stations marked COLORED nor WHITE,
Just stoppin’ in the fields in the broad daylight,
Stoppin’ in the country in the wide-open air
Where there never was a Jim Crow signs nowhere,
No Welcomin’ Committees, nor Politicians of note,
No Mayors and such for such for which colored can vote,
And nary a sign of a color line-
For the Freedom Train will be yours and mine!
Then maybe from their graves in Anzio
The G.I.’s who fought will say, We wanted it so!
Black men and white will say, Ain’t it fine?
At home they got a train that’s yours and mine!

Then I’ll shout, Glory for the
Freedom Train!
I’ll holler, Blow your whistle,
Freedom Train!
Thank God-A-Mighty! Here’s the
Freedom Train!
Get on board our Freedom Train!

 Choose any two questions that you find intriguing and answer them briefly in your own words. Don’t forget to mention your sources!

  1. How does the poem make you feel? How would you describe the feelings of the person who wrote this poem?
  2. There really was such a train as the freedom train in 1947. Find out what it carried and which American president came up with the idea.
  3. What is Jim Crow?
  4. What is G.I. short for and which war is going on at the time?
  5. Where is Anzio and what happened there?
  6. Describe briefly who Langston Hughes was in regards to the civil rights movement.
  7. Why is Langston Hughes so appalled by the Freedom Train? Think about the historical setting.
  8. Can you think of an artist today (rapper, filmmaker, author etc.) who  makes social concerns part of his/her artistic work. Who and how?
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