U.S. and World Politics

Kids Who Die

By Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,

Black and white,

For kids will die certainly.

The old and rich will live on awhile,

As always,

Eating blood and gold,

Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi

Organizing sharecroppers

Kids will die in the streets of Chicago

Organizing workers

Kids will die in the orange groves of California

Telling others to get together

Whites and Filipinos,

Negroes and Mexicans,

All kinds of kids will die

Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment

And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned

Who pen editorials in the papers,

And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names

White and black,

Who make surveys and write books

Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,

And the sleazy courts,

And the bribe-reaching police,

And the blood-loving generals,

And the money-loving preachers

Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,

Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets

To frighten the people—

For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—

And the old and rich don’t want the people

To taste the iron of the kids who die,

Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,

To believe an Angelo Herndon,1 or even get together

Listen, kids who die—

Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you

Except in our hearts

Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp

Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,

Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht2

But the day will come—

You are sure yourselves that it is coming—

When the marching feet of the masses

Will raise for you a living monument of love,

And joy, and laughter,

And black hands and white hands clasped as one,

And a song that reaches the sky—

The song of the life triumphant

Through the kids who die.

1 Angelo Braxton Herndon was an African-American labor organizer arrested and convicted of insurrection after attempting to organize black and white industrial workers in 1932 in Atlanta, Georgia. The prosecution case rested heavily on Herndon’s possession of “communist literature,” which police found in his hotel room.

2 Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (August 13, 1871 – January 15, 1919) was a prominent German socialist and anti-militarist. …He twice spent time in prison, first for writing an anti-militarism pamphlet in 1907 and then for his role in a 1916 antiwar demonstration. …At the end of 1918, Liebknecht was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany. Shortly after the suppression of the Spartacist Uprising in which he played a leading role, he and Rosa Luxemburg were killed by members of the Guard Cavalry Rifle Division…After their deaths, both Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg became martyrs for the socialist cause in Germany and throughout Europe. Commemoration of the two continues to play an important role among the German left to this day.