Michael Morgan AP English Literature and Composition: Poetry Response10/7/12 In “I, Too, Sing America” Langston Hughes shines light on the rich history of struggle for African Americans in the United States. For example, the text states “I am the darker brother, They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes. ” This shows that as a people, Blacks were marginalized and treated inhumanely simply on the basis of skin color by their Caucasian counterparts.
We were sent to this figurative “kitchen” because Whites were ashamed of us because we did not fit the societal expectations of what it meant to be American. In the Declaration of Independence, the very document that is symbolic of America’s freedom and triumph it states, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. ” Regardless of origin, race, or ethnic makeup, As Americans we are all equals under this text; however, they regarded the existence of Blacks as if we were all children of a lesser God.
The opening lines also illustrate the oppressive nature of white folks. Blacks were forced to eat in the kitchen; there was no option, nor alternative. This shows how we were trained to be subservient and give in to authority without questioning it. Langston Hughes highlights the resilience of Black folk and our ability to remain resolute in times of utter despair. For example, he writes that in the end he will eat, laugh and grow strong.
With the diction “grow strong,” Hughes is foreshadowing that a day will come when the Africans living in America who have been shunned and ostracized from society will stand up in unity and reveal their power to those who have trespassed against them. For centuries we have been mistreated, downtrodden, and dispossessed, but a time will arise where we must all stand together in solidarity to overthrow those who have held us in captivity. This reminds the reader of the antebellum south, where whenever Master had company, he would send his servants to the kitchen to eat.
However in his seclusion, the narrator finds humor. He laughs in the midst of this abysmal situation because he knows that his time to release the shackles that have been inextricably bound to him and his ancestors is imminently approaching. He knows that while his masters can overtake his physical being, his mind cannot be controlled. The narrator has chosen to not let his current circumstance become his condition but to demonstrate the courage and spirit of the Black slave. Hughes’ next few lines are the most elevant, considering the current political and social state of affairs in the United States. For example, the text states that, “Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table/ When company comes. Nobody’ll dare/ Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,”/Then. ” This shows that the author was stating that a time would come when Blacks would be seen for who they are as people and not what they look like. This “Tomorrow” refers to a time where Blacks and Whites will be equal. This equality is articulated through the speaker’s claim that he, too, will “be at the table” the next time visitors are invited over.
In a historical context, the “tomorrow” that Hughes speaks of has already arrived. With the election of America’s first Black President, centuries of defeat, and agony came to an impasse. Since the first slaves arrived in the New World, Africans have been without. We were without a voice, without human rights, without the freedoms that were promised to all Americans by the architects of our republic. In the final lines, the text states that, “Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am/ And be ashamed– I, too, am America. Hughes uses America as a symbol of diversity to depict how he is apart his country. Those who have done Blacks wrong should feel shame for the irreparable damage done to innocent people. However, within the last 4 years, a glimpse of what we are capable of has been revealed. We have the ability to succeed, despite the odds that have never been in our favor. We have the audacity to hope in the face of adversity, racism, and discrimination to the highest degrees. We possess the love to pull one another up so that we may progress as a whole.
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