I too sing America
Langston Hughes has had great influence on countless poets in the twentieth century irrespective of the schools and styles. His views on politics also were held in high regard. Hughes himself believed that his politics and poetry were inseparable. Most of his poems were on racism and was drawn from his own experiences. There were so many of them that his own people used to ask questions like “Do you think Negroes should always write about Negroes?”, “Why do you write about black people? You aren't black.” The rhetoric and rhymes used in the poems are compelling and original and this makes his poems very memorable. He came from a cultural tradition which did not have a voice in poetry and he was that pioneer voice.
“I, Too, Sing America’ is a short poem that emphasises the African American community within the dominant white culture. It captures the slavery, oppression and denial of rights to the black people. Hughes has drawn the first line from Walt Whitman’s ‘I, Sing the Body Electric’ and gives a clarion call that he, though black, has the right to sing about the country as they were also responsible for building that nation. After the clarion call he agrees that he is the darker brother and there were times when he would be sent to the kitchen to eat when white people come. He never felt belittled; instead he ate well and grew strong.
Hughes sees a bright future for his people. He says ‘tomorrow’, in the near future, he would sit at the table and no one would dare send him to the kitchen. Not just that; they would see how beautiful he was and be ashamed for treating him like that.He finally states pompously ‘I, too, am America.’
The poem ‘I, too, Sing America’ has 18 lines and it is a free verse. The language is simple and what it wants to convey is direct. It has an informal tone and its theme is relevant even today; sadly so. In spite of all the advancement and changes, there is some kind of discrimination in all societies in most part of the world. The tone of the poem is strong and defiant. He accepts the situation where the blacks are made to feel small in front of the whites. However he does not think that it will be same all the time. He uses the word ‘tomorrow’ which is closest in terms of time. He could have used ‘soon’ or ‘in times or years to come’, he did not use such ambiguous words. He was sure that their conditions would change immediately. The word ‘tomorrow’ is immediate and definite.
The reality was Hughes was well-known and welcomed everywhere. But what he wrote was for his people who had gone through a lot of trials over centuries. He believes, and rightly so, while the Polish, Irish, English and the natives made the country America, Africans too had a great part in it and he feels he is right in being patriotic about his country and sing for America.