Analysis of the poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes
The poem “Let America Be America Again” was composed by Hughes in 1935 and was published in the issue of Esquire Magazine in July 1936. The poem later appeared in Kansas Magazine in 1937. In 2004, the tile of the poem was the slogan for Senator John Kerry’s Presidential Campaign. In the poem, the speaker seeks to have a United States that symbolizes the dream it once was for the various pioneers on the plain and people who saw it as a home where they could be free. According to the persona, America was never great for him and as such, the country should go back to being the dream that many dreamers had and a “great strong lad of love” (Hughes, 1936, N. p). The speaker’s assertions of never experiencing equality or freedom in America are espoused by his claims of a nation that adorns a false patriotic wreath on its head, but fails to ensure pervasive equality and opportunity.
A faceless and nameless voice in the poem ponders on who is the speaker who is drawing a veil in the dark and mumbling in the dark. In response, the speaker says that he is the “Negro” slave, the pauper disenfranchised white man and the “Indian” who has been sent away from his land. Albeit there is mention of Indians and poor white people, the poem mainly deals with the racial discriminations faced by the African Americans in the United States. The speaker describes himself as the immigrant clutching on the hope that the weak may one day rise above the powerful and the young man with the belief that he will one day surmount the structures of avarice that bind him in America. He also relates to the farmer and worker lifestyles of the African American people in the 1930s who were stuck running machines and tied to the soil. Despite being torn from their homes in Africa, African Americans had a dream so strong that they built America with the hope and belief that they would eventually enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Throughout the poem, the author contrasts the hopes for an inclusive American with the reality of life in the nation for African Americans and other races that are outside the economically and socially dominant religious, racial and social groups. Through the persona in the poem, Hughes evokes the resilient dreams of those who came to America because they perceived it as a haven where they could be free, treated as equals based on their efforts and safe from persecution they endured as slaves even though these dreams have never come true. Hughes yearns for America to be the country that it once was, but he laments sardonically of the image of America that is patently false. This is because Americans practiced oppression and slavery after destroying the lands of the Native Americans to construct their settlements. Thus, the ideal America only exists in dreams. Notwithstanding, Hughes is not willing to relent on his dream and that of African Americans and the oppressed of a nation that is a strong land of love and where tyrants do not scheme and kings do not connive.
While the speaker acknowledges that many dreamers came to American with the hope of having better lives and equal opportunities to excel and amass wealth, such dreams seemed far-fetched for most African Americans who came to American as slaves with only the undying hope that they would eventually be free (Will, Spartans , N. p). African Americans just like the refugees from Poland, Ireland and England came to America because they had no choice, but after being forcefully tasked with the duty of building the foundation of the “homeland of the Analysis of the poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes