Ballad of the Landlord

by Langston Hughes

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How does the poem "The Ballad of the Landlord" present the theme of discrimination?

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In Langston Hughes's poem "The Ballad of the Landlord," an African-American tenant is complaining to the landlord about the repairs needed in his run-down apartment. The tenant has a leaky roof and broken steps, but the landlord does nothing to fix them. Instead, the landlord threatens the tenant with eviction, turning off the tenant's heat, and throwing him out on the street. These are all crimes on the landlord's part, but it is the tenant who is thrown in jail for threatening the landlord. The poem shows the effects of discrimination, as the African-American tenant is denied proper and well-kept housing but is jailed when he tries to complain. Society has deemed that the landlord, who is likely white, has the right to jail the tenant and does not have to provide sufficient housing to him.

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