Langston Hughes

Brotherly Love

A Little Letter to the White Citizens of the South In line of what my folks say in Montgomery, In line of what they’re teaching about love, When I reach out my hand, will you take it Or cut it off and leave a nub above? If I found it in my heart to love you, And if I thought I really could, If I said “Brother, I forgive you,” I wonder, would it do any good? So long, so long a time you’ve been calling Me all kinds of names, pushing me down – I been swimming with my head deep under water, And you wished I would stay under until I drown. But I didn’t! I’m still swimming! Now you’re mad Because I won’t ride in the back end of your bus. When I answer, “Anyhow, I’m gonna love you,” Still and yet, you want to make a fuss. Now listen, white folks! In line with Reverend King down in Montgomery – Also because the Bible says I must – I’m gonna love you – yes I will! Or BUST!

Dr. King and Langston Hughes maintained a friendship for years. Hughes wrote this poem in 1956 during the 13-month Montgomery bus boycott. Day after day, Negroes walked miles to work instead of riding the buses, and Dr. King first emerged as a leading force in the civil rights movement.
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