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The Short Form

“Slave on the Block”

Langston Hughes


“He is the jungle,” said Anne when she saw him.

“He's ‘I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray,’” said Michael.

For Anne thought in terms of pictures: she was a painter. And Michael thought in terms of music: he was a composer for the piano. And they had a most wonderful idea of painting pictures and composing music that went together, and then having a joint “concert-exhibition” as they would call it. Her pictures and his music. The Carraways, a sonata and a picture, a fugue and a picture. It would be lovely, and such a novelty, people would have to like it. And many of their things would be Negro. Anne had painted their maid six times. And Michael had composed several themes based on the spirituals, and on Louis Armstrong's jazz. Now here was this ebony boy. The essence in the flesh.

We read it in The Ways of White Folks: Stories.

Originally published in Scribners: September, 1933.