Howard Michael Henderson Reads for the Favorite Poem Project

January 21, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, a holiday reading from the favorite poem series, the project by then-poet laureate Robert Pinsky asking americans to read their favorite poem. Tonight’s reader is from Atlanta.

HOWARD MICHAEL HENDERSON: My name is Howard Michael Henderson. Most people call me Michael. I was born and raised here in Atlanta. And I try to consider myself to be somewhat of a renaissance man. There’s a lot of things that interest me in life and I try to do a little bit of it all, and try to give back as much as possible as I have received out of life. I went to Morehouse College during the ’60s and we were always taught to question, not just to accept things. One of the good things for me, I guess, is the fact that Martin Luther King was a graduate of Morehouse and it also gave us a sense of… We had something to fight for, to make a better life for our parents, for ourselves and for our children.

You have to understand, I was born in 1943, and so I remember drinking from the colored water fountains. I remember sitting on the back of the bus because of my color. I remember when the buses were crowded of having to get up and let a white person sit in my seat. One of the reasons for wanting to read Langston Hughes is because although the poem was written I guess about 50, 60 years ago, it just tells me as much as things have changed things still remain the same. I look now and see the current attacks on affirmative action. I look and see the young kids, and it just tells me we’re going around in circles.

Children are our future, and if you expose a kid, say, in the sense of “Merry-Go-Round,” for example, you say, “Well, there’s no room for a kid that’s black,” then we’re going to continue to have the hopelessness that we have here. And if we don’t save our children, we don’t save ourselves.

Langston Hughes


Where is the Jim Crow section 
On this merry-go-round, 
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from 
White and colored 
Can’t sit side by side. 
Down South on the train 
There’s a Jim Crow car. 
On the bus we’re put in the back-
But there ain’t no back 
To a merry-go-round! 
Where’s the horse 
For a kid that’s black?