Words Like Freedom


Ashley Bryan (1923–2022)
F (for freedom), 1996
Tempera and gouache
University of Pennsylvania, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Ashley Bryan Papers

© 2022 The Ashley Bryan Center. Used with Permission.


Sandy Campbell: Ashley chose Langston Hughes’s poem “Words Like Freedom” to represent the letter “F” in his ABC of African-American Poetry, and he painted this portrait of the young Hughes to accompany it. Just a few months before he died, Hughes gave a talk about his life and work at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the course of which he recited this poem.

Langston Hughes: There are words like freedom, sweet and wonderful to say. On my heartstrings freedom sings, all day, every day. There are words like liberty that almost make me cry. If you had known what I knew, you would know why.