I struggled with choosing a topic for my research paper but after some recent events that occurred in my life, I found Langston to be a good fit. I have chosen some of his political poems which I think best fit time we are living in right now. The Harlem Renaissance also called The Golden Age in the African American culture. It was the development of the neighborhood of Harlem in the early 20th Century. It to the social and artistic evolution of that period.
It birthed literature, music, acting and art.
Harlem was supposed to be for the upper-class white folks, but speedy overdevelopment of that area resulted in vacant buildings and landlords needed to fill them so African American moved to Harlem in great numbers. After World War I recruiters from the north went to the south lure Africa American workers to work for them and Harlem was the main place.
Langston Hughes played a very significant role in that time.
He was one of the writer who brought enlightenment to many. He gave hope people a sense of hope and help them understand that they were not alone and that they mattered. They realized they didn’t have to try to fit in with people that didn’t want them and so created their own culture, colorful, vibrant, vivid and left a memorable imprint in history.
The poems I chose are:
“Let America Be America Again”
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!
In this poem Hughes spoke about the American Dream, freedom, equality, liberty, the pursuit of happiness which was very far from the grasp of African Americans. He spoke about how this ideology gone or was never for us. The today living and oppression, exploitation, segregation makes it a mere illusion. Although Hughes was very pessimistic in this poem at the end he flipped the tables to a more optimistic as if there was light at the end of the tunnel. But the question remains “is there really?” In our day the slogan is “Let’s make America Great Again” It’s almost as if America is one race or people. After all these years we haven’t learned a thing.
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.
-In this poem Hughes is claiming his right to freedom. As a citizen of his country he wants equality, freedom, liberty.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
In this poem Hughes is talking about the end of segregation it’s too bad cancer didn’t give him a chance to live and see our first black president. He shows patriotism while laughing at his oppressors for being ignorant America is everyone. America is the great melting pot and if push comes everyone will fight to defend it because it’s our home.
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