Langston Hughes was an American poet known for many of his works during the Harlem Renaissance. He was born on February 1, 1901, in Joplin, Missouri. He moved to New York City when he was a young man to start his career in writing. His life and work played a huge role in shaping the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s. One of his most famous pieces is I, Too. I Too is a poem that gives a voice to the African American community. Hughes touches upon patriotism, and provides his view on racism and bigotry. The poem begins with the speaker saying that he too sing[s] America, expressing his love for his country. He continues saying that he is the darker brother which he refers to as the black man metaphorically.
He goes on to say that they send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, in this stanza he is saying that the white household sends him to eat in the kitchen as if he were a slave. The oppression however doesn’t stop the speaker from laughing, learning, and growing. Hughes imagines a future where tomorrow he’ll be eating at the table when company comes and that no one will dare tell him to eat in the kitchen. He wishes that when that day comes, the white household will see him as beautiful and will feel ashamed for their previous remarks. The poem ends with the speaker repeating again that he and his race, being African Americans, are indeed American. In the poem, Langston Hughes envisions a country where there is no discrimination and everyone is treated equally. The themes throughout the poem are race, equality, and ambition. The poem starts by looking into the racial history of America, and later transitions into a bright America where whites treat blacks as their equals, and are ashamed of their prejudice and discrimination towards them. Hughes relies on his ambition to survive in a world full of discrimination to blacks and himself.
His ambition causes him to have a bright outlook on the future, where he alongside his fellow African Americans will be treated equal. Hughes doesn’t let the hate consume him, but instead strives for equality for all, and African Americans are freed from the clutches of bigotry. I Too brings a tone of optimistic and proudness. Hughes tone changes throughout the poem. The line I, too sing America specifies that African Americans also love their country. This line symbolizes unity in America and it uses an emotional, patriotic voice. In the second line I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen the speaker is enraged because of the mistreatment from the whites, making the tone furious. However, in lines 4-6 the speaker changes his tone to an optimistic and calm one. In stanza three, the speaker uses a warming tone when he says Tomorrow I’ll be at the table, his envision of the future is positive. In the fourth stanza, the speaker’s tone changes to a calm one when he says that he one day will sit at the table and the whites will see how beautiful African Americans are and will feel ashamed of how they treated them.
The last stanza ends again with a patriotic tone, which recalls the first line and gives it a sense of unity. Langston Hughes in his works speaks for the many voiceless African Americans that are discriminated and not treated equal. His work and life really helped shape the era of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s. Hughes poem I, Too tells the story of how one day he and his fellow people will be able to sit with their white brothers and sisters at the same dinner table in peace and unity. His positive envison of the future helped pave the way for many later movements to follow including The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement.
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