I, Too, Sing America By Langston Hughes: Summary, Theme & Analysis

I, Too, Sing America By Langston Hughes: Summary, Theme & Analysis
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  • 0:01 Biography of the Author
  • 1:37 Analysis & Summary
  • 3:16 Themes
  • 4:03 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

In this lesson, we briefly examine the writing life of Langston Hughes. From there, we summarize his poem 'I, Too, Sing America' and analyze its major themes.

Brief Biography of the Author

Langston Hughes once said, 'I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.'

As an African American writer and poet beginning in the 1920s, Langston Hughes had to overcome many obstacles, mainly his race, to really 'go' where he wanted. As a young teen, he was not supported in his poetry and even left college because of racial prejudice. Although he suffered this injustice, he was able to take this experience, move to Harlem, and fully explore his writing. This early struggle, as well as the struggle to be a black man during this time, is often reflected in the themes of his writings.

In his poems, Hughes confronts racism in America, the struggles of African-Americans as part of the lower class, and the stereotypes that were common. Unlike other poets, he chose to do so by reminding his audience that his race was strong and beautiful. He never felt the need to apologize for his race, but rather used his own experiences to connect to the common experiences felt by others. There were often themes of hope, strength, and unity. Through these messages, Hughes sought to not just uplift his peers, but to show harmony among all races.

Hughes also became popular through his use of jazz in poetry. In the 1920s when Hughes returned to Harlem, he became a part of the Harlem Renaissance movement. This group of black artists worked together in poetry and music. When he wrote, Hughes used the rhythm of jazz in much of his writings, creating a flow unique to his writing style.

Analysis and Summary of the Poem

Hughes wrote 'I, Too, Sing America' in 1932. Historically, African-Americans have been oppressed in America. In this era, there was strong racism in most of the country; many African-Americans lived in poverty and were beaten and abused. There was still a legal segregation of blacks and whites, and many whites looked at blacks as not being a part of America. Because of this, the feeling of freedom was limited in the black community.

In this poem, Hughes creates the argument that although he is black, he is still just as American as any other. The poem begins with the speaker being asked to leave the room: 'they send me to the kitchen / when company comes.' The opening statement creates a setting common at the time: a black individual working in a white household. This creates the feeling of division, oppression, and even discouragement.

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