Get Up Off That Old Jive

White folks,
You better get some new jive.
That old jive is wearing thin.
I been listening to that old jive
Since I don’t know when.

Fact of the matter,
To tell you the truth
Instead of just words
I want action to boot.

You been making fine speeches
For a long long while
Now give some democracy
To each brown-skin child.

A war’s taking place.
We ain’t fighting for fun.
We’re fighting to win —
This fight’s got to be won.

We want just what
The president said:
Freedom from fear,
And from want —
To be men,
And have bread.

So get up off that old jive.
Let’s start clearing the way:
Put an end to Jim Crow
Right now, today.

A man can fight
Better that way.

— Langston Hughes

Born in 1902, poet and playwright Langston Hughes fueled the civil rights movement — particularly during the first half of the 20th century — with his poetry, journalism, and children’s literature. Get Up Off That Old Jive was one of many of his freedom poems circulated by the Associated Negro Press in the 1940s.

[Research note: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, ed. Arnold Rampersad (New York: Vintage Classics, 1994): 573.]

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