New York: Musette Publishers, Inc., 1946.
Third Printing. Wraps. This admittedly very worn but complete and surviving 1946 printing of this 14-page poem is a moving artifact from the literary career of the iconic African-American poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes (1901–1967), who made many changes to the poem from its first appearance in 1943 to the final version in Selected Poems of Langston Hughes in 1959. Written in the midst of the Second World War, this rousing poem is about America, past and future, and the freedom it has always promised. After being broadcast nationwide on the RCA Blue Network, introduced by Broadway star Paul Muni with vocal and organ accompaniment, it was recorded by Musette on two ten-inch records, narrated by Fredric March and accompanied by the Jefferson Chorus. In "Freedom's Plow," Hughes quotes prominent Americans on the subject of freedom, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass, and the poem gets its title from the traditional African American spiritual, "Keep your hand on the plow, hold on!" Two of Hughes' great-grandmothers were enslaved. In this powerful poem, Hughes contextualizes the labor of and long journey toward freedom for Black Americans as foundational to the ongoing project of American democracy and encourages all Americans to continue the work of freedom, justice, liberty, and equality for all:
"America!/ Land created in common,/ Dream nourished in common,/ Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!/ If the house is not yet finished,/ Don't be discouraged, builder!/ If the fight is not yet won,/ Don't be weary, soldier!/ The plan and the pattern is here,/ Woven from the beginning/ Into the warp and woof of America:/ ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL./ NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH/ TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN/ WITHOUT HIS CONSENT./ BETTER DIE FREE,/ THAN TO LIVE SLAVES./ Who said those things? Americans!"
8 1/2" X 5 1/8". 14pp. Staplebound in printed wraps with title, author, and publisher printed in black to upper wrap. Very heavy wear to binding, with upper and rear wraps completely separated from text block, toning and soiling to wraps, and inked notes to rear wrap. Light foxing and toning to pages throughout, else unmarked. Fair. Item #13032