Onwucheka Jemie: On "Ku Klux"

Hughes equates the Northern police violence of "Third Degree" and "Who But the Lord?" with the Southern violence of "Ku Klux." The police have the same "faces like jack-o-lanterns" as the members of the KKK in Ask Your Mama.

. . . .

Like Madam Alberta Johnson in "Madam and the Phone Bill," the narrator of "Ku Klux" is signifying and clowning around, sassing the white folks. He knows that anything he says will be used against him, and his knowledge gives him a certain freedom. He mocks his attackers' beliefs by saying he would believe in anything if they would just turn him loose; that is, he would accept their reading of reality only under duress. They are desperate to persuade him, but they also know it's useless. And the fact that he knows and says as much makes them even more frantic. The poem holds five hundred years of history in capsule, spotlighting the physical violence by which the West established and enforced the myth of its superiority over the rest of the world. . . .

"Ku Klux" is a leisurely account after the event; the victim has lived to tell his story, and can afford to mellow its memory with humor and sass.

From Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry. Copyright © 1976 by Columbia University Press.

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Criticism Overview
Title Onwucheka Jemie: On "Ku Klux" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Onwucheka Jemie Criticism Target Langston Hughes
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 28 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Langston Hughes: An Introduction to The Poetry
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