I, too, Am America

Langston Hughes poetry writing

“Langston Hughes, although only twenty-four years old, is already conspicuous in the group of Negro intellectuals who are dignifying Harlem with a genuine art life. . . .”wrote author Du Bose Heyward in the New York Herald Tribune in 1926. Despite such praise, Hughes was derided by his fellow black writers of the time for allowing race to be a main character in many of his works.

The Poetry Foundation’s site has a terrific summary of Hughes’s historical relevance. In closing, the article quotes from Donald B. Gibson’ s book, Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essay“During the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read.”

It seems, then, that anyone writing poetry today has much to learn from Langston Hughes.

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.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.

 

This post was originally published in Zeteo Journal’s Zeteo is Reading section.

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