Langston Hughes- The Voice of African Americans
“The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, “Danse Africaine” , and “I, Too” by Langston Hughes are representative of Hughes ability to capture the vast experience of being black in America. Hughes’ ability to define African American heritage and the daily experience of being black in America through poetry and essays helped move the Harlem Renaissance into the forefront of American Literature. For Hughes, being African American meant many different things. As an African American each day was different and through the years Hughes’ experiences continued to allow him to relate what it meant to be black in America. Whether it was pride in one’s heritage or anger about racism; Hughes’s poetry was able to capture the feelings of the many blacks who were dealing with the issue of being black, but wanted to fit into “white America“. In Huges essay the negro artist, he captured the essence of blacks looking at themselves through the eyes of white America “But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America—this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible. .
Hughes felt the need to address the racism and prejudice that existed in America. Though Hughes was very optimistic about America and its ability to improve racial tensions the reality of racism was hard to ignore. In I, Too Hughes used a black male servant as a metaphor for African Americans. The servant who is sent away to the kitchen whenever company comes allows the reader to understand Hughes’ view of America and its attitude toward African Americans. Hughes examines the segregation of America and the idea that change is possible. The actions of the servant reveal the struggle of African Americans as a people who want to be equal to other Americans.
The title of I, Too itself suggests that the speaker of the poem believes that he is also an America. The speaker includes himself as one of the many who “sings America” (line 1). The idea that one “sings America” reveals a pride in being a citizen of the United States of America. The speaker aware of his “two-ness,” his two identities of being black and American, expresses the anger of knowing that many people do not acknowledge him as an American. For this reason Hughes allows the speaker a response to those who do not believe blacks to be Americans worthy of equal opportunities and rights. The speaker identifies himself also as the darker brother (line 2) revealing that he is black (dark skinned) while connecting himself to white Americans who are lighter in complexion. The use of the word ‘brother” helps the speaker to assert that he believes that he is an American symbolizing the common bond he shares with whites. The speaker goes on to say that he is sent away to the kitchen by his employers when company arrives. He implies that he is sent away because “they” (his white employers) believe his not worthy of being at the table when others are dinning. The inferiority that the speaker feels suggests the feelings of many African Americans who experience racism and prejudice.
The speaker then addresses the unfair treatment by his employers in his response in lines 5-7 “But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong.” The speaker laughs at the ridiculousness of his employer’s actions. The speaker seems amused that his employers believe that by keeping him in the kitchen they can forget his presence. This line allows Hughes’ message to be heard. Hughes sends a message to America that the “darker brother” or African Americans will continue to fight racism and prejudice. The speaker who symbolizes all African Americans would not be content with inequality and injustice. Hughes not only provides readers with the problem in America but also what he believes is the appropriate...
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