Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

Spring 3-2020

Publication Title

Modernism in the Green: Public Greens in Modern Literature and Culture






This chapter draws attention to the lack of parks and nature recreation amenities during the 1920s and 1930s in predominantly African American city neighborhoods through Langston Hughes’s political poetry, specifically his blues-inflected ballad “Park Bench,” as well as “Chicago’s Black Belt” “Restrictive Covenants,” and “One Way Ticket.” Through the figure of the tramp/vagrant/bum, “Park Bench” voices a protest against inequality mapped into city space. Asserting that access to nature should be a fundamental condition of a democratic society, the poem situates the park bench as a charged site for public dialogue. The chapter argues that this poem and other Hughes poetry joins a constellation of black activist work, in the US and abroad which sought to address the customary and statutory exclusion of black Americans from parks, playgrounds, pools, and beaches.

Original Publication Citation

Konkol, M. (2020). Park Blues: Langston Hughes, Racial Exclusion, and the Park Ballad. In Daniel, J.E. & Konkol, M. (Eds.), Modernism in the green (pp. 134-152). Routledge.