“Let America Be America Again” is a poem dedicated to and inspired by the political subjects written by Langston Hughes in 1935 and published in the Esquire issue in the summer of 1936. The poem is about how America must fulfil the promises it gave earlier to the people inhabiting it as it once did to its Founding Fathers, Puritans, pilgrims, and revolutionaries in the beginning.
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Let America Be America Again
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!
Analysis of Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again”
Langston Hughes published “Let America Be America Again” in 1936, during the Great Depression, which was a difficult period in American history. The poem illustrates that the pledges laid out by the USA’s founding fathers, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson are not being taken seriously by those whom they were created for, and thus, America never was what it aspired to be. The nation must revert back to its beginnings. America must fulfil its promise to all the people the way it did to the founding fathers, puritans, pilgrims, and revolutionaries.
Hughes brings to light the need for equality and freedom in this poem, since these are two of the main principles America was instituted upon. He wants a nation where there is equal appreciation for every member of the society, and there are no leaders who control the population. His desire is to see an America where freedom and opportunities are presented to everyone, no matter their race or past. What Hughes says is that the people are getting robbed of their own rights and not all of them are enjoying the freedom like they should be.
Hughes feels that America is a community that is steered by the affluent who have crushed the poor. Although America is mainly known as the “land of the free,” there are certain underprivileged communities that do not have their complete freedom.
He is speaking out for the white Americans who were moved due to the Great Depression, the African-Americans who are still living in challenging post slavery conditions, and the hopeful immigrants. He feels that these people work very hard to receive nothing out of it and they are angry about it. He urges these people to step out of the underserved communities that they live in and fight for what they want. He wants America to become the welcoming and beautiful nation it is supposed to be.