Langston Hughes: Challenging Racism through Poetry

Categories: AmericaHuman Nature

During the 1960's in America, many African Americans were suppressed and segregated due to their racial differences and the fact that they were descendants of slaves. Therefore, many blacks like Langston Hughes, recognized that although difference in race, all Americans should be treated equally and with dignity. Hence, they expressed their feelings of sufferings, helplessness, isolation and yearnings for hope through different artistic ways, like poetry, art, and music, which also marks the birth of their racial consciousness and self- conception, and help them learn to have racial pride in themselves.

Now let us explore Hughe's "I, too, Sing America" through his use of different literary devices, including imagery, symbols, tone, structure and rhythm.

Imagery is an essential element adding to the poem's effectiveness, and in this poem he uses a lot of domestic images, creating an account of the experiences of a black servant serving a wealthy white family. In the second line, Hughes created an image of a black man: "I am the darker brother", which symbolizes all the blacks in America.

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Furthermore in the third line: "They send me to eat in the kitchen" creates an image of him being oppressed. The image of eating often symbolizes strength and being healthy, implying that black people in general are strong-willed and growing in power and equality. Moreover, the image of a kitchen represents repression, because most Kitchens are hidden much like the suffering of African Americans. Lastly in line nine, there is an image of a table: "I'll be at the table", representing equality with whites and being as superior as them, it also signifies pride and dignity in their black identity because the table is high above the floor.

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The poem's use of diction is also significant to create a long lasting impression in the reader's mind. First of all in line two he described the black servant as a "dark brother" instead of a "black servant". His use of "dark" instead of "black" is more effective because "black" usually represent evil and death which undermines the race of Black Americans, and dark is healthier because it resembles a tan skin. Furthermore, "brother" symbolizes family and acceptances, meaning they are equal. Moreover, the use of "companion" in line four creates a contrast between the black servant and the white people, emphasizing the fact that the blacks are lonely, isolated and helpless while the whites were strong and dominating. Lastly, the choice of "tomorrow" also symbolizes the future of the blacks, that they will be just as powerful and equal as the Whites.

The poem's irregular structure also helps to illustrate the theme of inequality. The number of lines in each stanza is different and the number of words in each line is different. This was done intentionally representing the discrimination and inequality of the Blacks. However, the first and last stanza both only have one line, and this is also symbolic to suggest that all humans were born equal, and in the future, the blacks and white will eventually reach equality. This helped the poem create a sense of unity and harmony between races.

There are also no rhyme or musicality to the poem, because if the poem was smooth and musical it would create an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony, which does not fit the theme of the poem. An irregular rhythm gives the poem a solemn and troubled feeling, which mirrors the conflicting and unsteady relationship between the Blacks and Whites in America.

The tone of the speaker changes throughout the poem. In line one, "I, too, sing America" indicates that blacks also love the country a lot, symbolizes unity throughout the nation and uses a patriotic, emotional tone. In the second stanza, the black servant was mistreated and was enraged, so the speaker uses an angry and furious tone. However in line four-six: "But I laugh, /and eat well, And grow strong." he uses a optimistic and patient tone. Soon after in stanza three he warns the whites that their race will be powerful and equal, and here he uses a tone of caution, warning and pride. In the fourth stanza the speaker return to a calm tone and proudly say that one day "they'll see how beautiful I am/ And be ashamed". In the last line the speaker is once again patriotic, which recalls the first line and gives it a sense of unity.

This poem "I, too, sing America" is about unjust and racial discrimination. Through the unequal actions that were put on the black servant, we could see the true side of America during the 1960's; separate and unequal. However, through the black servant's bravery and hope for equality in the future, the first Black American President finally made it in 2008 - Barack Obama.

Works Cited

"I Too Sing, AMERICA: A Sociological Prospectus on Race, New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina." All Academic Inc. (Abstract Management, Conference Management and Research Search Engine). Web. 07 Sept. 2009. .

"I, Too, Sing America Analysis Langston Hughes : Summary Explanation Meaning Overview Essay Writing Critique Peer Review Literary Criticism Synopsis Online Education." Writing Workshop, or something. Web. 07 Sept. 2009. .

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Langston Hughes: Challenging Racism through Poetry. (2016, Jul 27). Retrieved from

Langston Hughes: Challenging Racism through Poetry essay
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