Poem & Inputs

Brotherly Love

by Langston Hughes

[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.]

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 underwater,
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!

The central theme of the narrative is that we are all members of one people, one nation, and one destiny regardless of our skin tone, racial background, or place of origin. Even though he had talked about the difficult love, it is still very difficult and challenging in this country today because there is still violence, crime, racism, and fighting between individuals. However, our identity is not defined by the people around us because one day we will all stand before God for judgment and give an account of ourselves. God doesn’t consider flaws, eyes, skin, or immigration status in this country, nor does he consider any other physical characteristics.

However, this poem and Langston Hughes’ “I, too, sing America” are comparable because they both describe how white people discriminate against him. When they have guests, they make him leave the room, and they wish he would stay under the water until he perishes. Both poems demonstrate how he rejects these kinds of discriminatory behaviors and thoughts despite tolerating them. As stated in the poem above, he can laugh about it and “keeps swimming” even though the white people wanted him to perish. He strives to make the most of his current circumstances by finding strength, hope, and goodness in them.

Brotherly Love, by Langston Hughes, is a poem about the discrimination of blacks by white people in Montgomery.

What matters to him most is the heart and what is inside. I’m glad I had the chance to choose a poem and speak about it because this really resonates with my idea of what brotherly love ought to be like. The biblical concept of brotherly love is an extension of the natural affection associated with close family members toward the larger community of fellow believers. It goes beyond the simple command in Leviticus 19:18 to “love thy neighbor as thyself” and manifests as “unfeigned love” from a “pure heart,” which extends an unconditional hand of friendship and loves when not reciprocated, gives without expecting anything in return, and constantly seeks out the best in others.

The tenet of brotherly love states that “Wisdom is man-loving, and the righteous must love ALL MEN.” The love of God and the love of all people are taught in the Patriarchs’ Testaments. addressing the directive to love one’s neighbor.

Thank you!

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