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The Ballad of the Landlord Summary & Analysis
by Langston Hughes

"The Ballad of the Landlord" is a 1940 poem by Langston Hughes. One of the best-known figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes was inspired by his own time in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. The poem's speaker describes the experience of being a black tenant trying to get his white landlord to make basic, essential repairs to the property he's renting. Instead of making the repairs, however, the landlord—emboldened by the powerful status society confers on him as a presumably white, wealthy man opposite a black man—seizes the opportunity to unfairly exploit his tenant, the speaker.

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