The ballad is an imaginary conversation between a black tenant and his white landlord. The white landlord has been exploiting his black tenant for a very long time by not repairing the black tenant's house - the roof leaks, and the steps are broken. When the black tenant insists that the white landlord should immediately repair the leaking roof and the broken stairs, he retorts that he will evict him from the house and that he will cut off the heating and throw out his furniture.
Langston Hughes' poem satirizes the injustice meted out to the poor marginalized blacks by the white majority in New York's Harlem.
This poem is dramatically opened and dramatically ended. Hughes uses colloquial language to express his ideas. By imagining the coming of the police, his arrest and consequent headlines in the press he creates an atmosphere of immediacy and dramatic intensity. The lines of the poem are made long and short to indicate the changing moods of the narrator. The expression of the poem is strikingly new and it goes straight to the heart of the audience.