There can be no question as to the color of one's skin; No choice. The choice comes in how we react to our world, the extent to which we embrace who we are. African-Americans, as a people have undergone a painful history. With this history in mind, Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar both described his very different reaction to being black, reactions to treatment because they were black. They each had different approaches to living through racism. Although they both were black in skin color, their eyes beheld different worlds. Their viewpoints, however different, are both justified. .
Dunbar's poem, entitled We Wear the Mask was written a short while before the blossoming of culture that was the Harlem Renaissance. It reveals Dunbar's wish to hide his pain from the world. He wished to "mask" the pain his people went through. He asks, "why should the world be overwise," why must we be convinced to relive our painful past, why "count tears?" The "we" in Dunbar's poem is not everyone, it is Black Americans. These Americans have suffered greatly. Dunbar's own parents were slaves. The pain they went through is very real, very close to him. And yet, with their "torn and bleeding hearts, (they) smile." Why would they smile? Having such a painful past, Dunbar seems to want, not to forget it, but to stop opening the wound that is Black history. He recognizes the great pain he has gone through, and feels it is not everyone's business to dig around that history. His people are not a stupid, forgetful people. He knows history, and wants the world to "dream otherwise." Dunbar's poem expresses a wish to move on, never forgetting, but moving forward still. .
Hughes" poem, Theme for English B gives us another perspective in answer to racism. When he describes his going to college, it is to a place "on the hill above Harlem." His mention of being above, his ascent is more than geographical movement.