Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog

Langston Hughes | Night Funeral In Harlem


To celebrate Black History month, Valley of Life is featuring poetry composed by the black community in America. An earlier poet, Langston Hughes (1902-1967), was well-known for his literary works during a period called the “Harlem Renaissance.” Below, Hughes offers his thoughts on the ability to honor one’s death through a poem he composed about a funeral in Harlem.

Night Funeral In Harlem

Night funeral
In Harlem:

Where did they get
Them two fine cars?

Insurance man, he did not pay–
His insurance lapsed the other day–
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.

Night funeral
In Harlem:

Who was it sent
That wreath of flowers?

Them flowers came
from that poor boy’s friends–
They’ll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.

Night funeral
in Harlem:

Who preached that
Black boy to his grave?

Old preacher man
Preached that boy away–
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.

Night funeral
In Harlem:

When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done played
and the last prayers been said
and six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,
The street light
At his corner
Shined just like a tear–
That boy that they was mournin’
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man–
It was all their tears that made
That poor boy’s
Funeral grand.

Night funeral
In Harlem.

–Langston Hughes

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