Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Over the past century, scholars have attempted to describe and make sense of the gross socioeconomic inequality that now characterizes our society. Modernists tried to grapple with the feeling of loss and grief that this inequity produced by either refusing to acknowledge its existence and shoving feelings away or by trying to direct their anger at the social system causing their grief. Langston Hughes addresses his grief in the latter way and some of his poetry depicts a positive future in which the people who are now oppressed will flourish. In the 21st century, scholars continue to attempt to explain and solve the inequality gap that Hughes explored in the early 1900s.

In the following pages, I will analyze the ways that Hughes conceptualizes relations between the rich and poor, how he represents economic inequality, and how he imagines change coming about. I will then discuss the way that the 21st-century urban economist Brendan O’Flaherty attempts to understand and provide answers for the growing inequality in our nation in his book the Economics of Race in the United States. In this paper I will present the similarities and differences between these two writers takes on inequality and discuss why economists might benefit from taking a step back from their pursuit of developing a perfect policy solution to instead consider the power that those suffering in the current economy might have to upend it entirely.