Let America Be America Again
‘Let America Be America Again’ is a poem inspired by the political happenings in America. It was written in 1935 when Hughes was going through a personal low and it was published in Esquire in 1936. The creators of America had such lofty ideals for the country but the real America was a far cry from it. Hughes wanted the America dreamed by the greats like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and many more.
The poem ‘Let America Be America Again’ speaks of a dream for the lower-class and it is not just about African Americans; his voice was for all who were disadvantaged in one way or another. Hughes wanted an America where everyone was ‘free’. He wanted it to be a land of love where there were no tyrants. He did not want false patriotism, but a country where opportunities were real. He goes on to list the people who were suffering. There were ‘poor whites’, ‘Negros’, the native Red Indians who were driven off from their land and then the immigrants. All of them suffered because they were weak, and the mighty crushed them.
Hughes was young and full of hope and strength but he was entangled in the chain of power and gain. He represents more voices, the farmer, the worker on the machine, the Negro who was a servant; in short he represented the different sectors who were trulyat a disadvantage. He is the one who dreamt of an America very strong and brave like many other people. Many others had sailed from different lands to make America their home. Hughes had travelled from Africa, there were some form Ireland, Poland and England too. All had come toAmerica to make it a ‘homeland of the free’
Then he is almost mocking at the idea of being free. He says he did not say ‘free’ because people are killed if they strike for a cause, there are millions who have nothing. All the songs sung and flags hung and hopes held have no values at all. All that remains is the dream. The dream was that America has to become America which was built by ‘sweat, blood, faith and pain’. Hughes realises he would be taunted for his words and he would be called ‘ugly names’ but he is not really bothered. His dream for freedom was made of steel and it would never get stained by those people who suck their blood. All through the poem he says “America was never America to me” without expounding on that thought. It is only towards the end of the poem he says that America was never that country he thought it might be. However he has hopes for the country to raise from its ruins of gangster wars, rape, rotting of the work force, stealth and lies. Hughes hopes the land, mines, plants, rivers, mountains and plains will be restored to its glorious; he ends on that positive note.
‘Let America Be America Again’ is a long poem with seventeen stanzas of varying lengths, some are just one line. There is no specific rhyme scheme but there are many lines that rhyme. So too the refrain ‘Let America Be America Again’ and the line ‘America was never America to me’ gives the poem a lyrical strain. The tone is that of hope even though there is despair and pain. He speaks for mankind as a whole.‘Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need’, the alliteration in this line makes the line hard hitting. Although the poem is hard hitting and pessimistic it has an optimistic ending and he believes there is light at the end of the tunnel.