What would be a good thesis statement for an expository essay about the poem "Green Memory" by Langston Hughes?  Was "Green Memory" written by Langston Hughes in 1951 about World War II and the...

What would be a good thesis statement for an expository essay about the poem "Green Memory" by Langston Hughes?  Was "Green Memory" written by Langston Hughes in 1951 about World War II and the fact that African Americans were back in the US filling in jobs for white men who were fighting and dying?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One could certainly make the case that Langston Hughes wrote "Green Memory" to illustrate the fact that many African Americans were turned down by the draft board during World War II and left at home in the US filling jobs left by the white Americans. In that case, you could argue that when he says lines like, "and blood rolled out," or "But blood / was far away / from here--," he is pointing out how African Americans could have been giving more aid to the war effort, thereby preventing less blood from being spilled. He is using the imagery "blood rolled out" to show just how much blood was spilled during the war, and more helping hands could have prevented more blood from being spilled. He also seems to be portraying WW II from a very mercenary perspective--a great deal of money certainly was made in the US off of a great deal of blood loss, and you could argue he is using the poem, again, to say that had more African Americans been used in service, some of that blood loss may have been prevented. From a mercenary perspective, he is using the lines, "But blood / was far away / from here--," to show that those who were making money on the war effort, like the factories who manufactured supplies and the government, were not as deeply affected by the loss of blood as they should have been--blood loss that could have been lessened with more helping hands.

To write your expository essay, you'll want to be sure to also research your topic, and your thesis will actually be based off of what you find in your research. You will then use your research to support your interpretation of the poem. If you want to go with your planned argument, you'll want to be sure to research any of the rejections to serve in World War II that African Americans experienced. You may actually find limited sources available on that topic on the internet and may have to focus on printed historical books and articles instead. Below is a short source describing African Americans being rejected from serving in the Air Force. The second article titled "African Americans in World War II" also describes some rejection, but like many sources on the internet, the source puts a positive slant on the topic, making your research a bit difficult. The second article explains that, while it's true that many, most really, African Americans were refused by the draft board, in 1941, 4,000 African Americans were able to enlist, and by 1945, their numbers grew to 1.2 million. President Roosevelt also promised to enlist a percentage of African Americans equal to the percentage of African Americans living in the US, but, still, the number of enlisted African Americans fell short of the president's goal. There is also a lot of evidence that African American battalions played a huge role on D-Day.

So, if you focus on the research showing the negative side of the issue, that many African Americans were needlessly and sadly rejected from service, leading to a lot more bloodshed, your thesis might look something like this:

  • Langston Hughes uses imagery of money rolling in and blood rolling out in his poem "Green Memory" to show the tragic loss resulting from racism towards African Americans, which prevented many from enlisting during World War II.
Sources:

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