Equality, Racial Justice, and Democracy in Langston Hughes Poetry

Langston Hughes was a famous African American writer who sparked a revolution with his artistic poetry. He is most famous for his poetry contributions to the Harlem Renaissance movement. Noble recognition for African Americans in his poetry provides awareness for racial discrimination, struggles, experiences, poverty during the perspectives of African Americans. Hughes uses poetry to convey the messages of equality, racial justice, and democracy .

One example of Hughes’ poems, I, Too, illustrates the theme of racial inequality. The poem takes a response of a white person, who is telling the black speaker to separate himself when company arrives. “They send me to eat in the kitchen /
When company comes,”  (ll. 3-4). This represents inequality for the black speaker who is treated differently only based off his skin. When people arrive he moves to the kitchen, away from everyone to eat by himself. However, he empowers himself with pride saying, “Tomorrow, / I’ll be at the table / When company comes. / Nobody’ll dare / Say to me, Eat in the kitchen,” (ll. 8-13). This is a call for racial justice as he declares that he will be granted equality for when other people come to eat. The message of pride and declaration for being treated the same way calls for equality. The speakers tone throughout this poem is irritated, an example  can be seen here “They’ll see how beautiful I am/ And be ashamed- /I too am America” (ll.15-17). The last line “I too am America” marks the reader for understanding the he is an American, simply the same as every other American.

Another significant poem by Hughes, The Negro Mother. Struggles of a black mother are seen in the poem. The certain choice of words in this poem portrays emotions of sympathy, an example can be seen in these lines, “I am the child they stole from the sand / Three hundred years ago in Africa’s land, / I am the dark girl who crossed the wide sea / Carrying in my body the seed of the free, / I am the woman who worked in the field / Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield. / I am the one who labored as a slave,” (ll. 7-13). I felt sympathetic for the speakers experience when she was a “dark girl who crossed the wide sea” (I. 9) The use of imagery also motivates this tone because we can imagine a little girl chained on a ship, stolen from her land for labor. “I am the child they stole from the sand” (I.7) Here we can vividly imagine  a young girl being snatched from her land to get chained on a ship. The weight of diction in “I am the child the stole” creates that tragic, depressing mood for the reader and sets the attitude of sympathy for the black woman and her experiences.

As a comment on black Americans’ experiences in America, Langston Hughes’ poetry is thought-provoking and influential. A marginalized community is captured through metaphor and vivid imagery, while their strength and resilience are also celebrated. Even today, Hughes’ work is still pertinent, serving as a reminder that we are all still fighting for equality and justice. Langston Hughes literature helps us remember why we still fight against discrimination and demand equality in the first place. Listening and reading the pasts of poetry will make us more aware. Based on the real life problems happening today it raises me with questions, what can we do to stop these problems? How can we spread awareness so everyone knows? Listening and reading, poems, books, watching documentaries, movies will create more global awareness, especially spreading it on social media. This will make us more globally aware and give us ideas to support and take action. Hughes’s poetry has granted me with even more perspectives that has made me more aware.

One thought on “Equality, Racial Justice, and Democracy in Langston Hughes Poetry”

  1. I love how you address the weight of the diction of the Girl being stolen from her land, it was very insightful. Keep up the great work!

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