When Langston Hughes wrote the poem "I, Too" (1932), African Americans were not accepted. Blacks were discriminated against, killed violently, separated from using the same facilities and being in the same place as whites, just to name a few. The division between whites and blacks was clearly prevalent, with whites faring on the better side of the spectrum. Essentially, the United States of America was a racially discriminatory society reinforced by its racist laws.
Therefore, Langston Hughes took the initiative to speak his mind via poetry, and this piece shows that.
The first line of the poem, "I, too, sing America," clearly signifies one thing: Just because his skin color is different from whites, he argues that he also sings the National Anthem/Star Spangle Banner the same as whites do. More important, the voice of the poem, the servant, argues that he too is American.
The poem shows blunt disrespect from the master to his servant by sending him away every time visitors come, because he is ordered to eat in the kitchen - secluded from company. However, it does not faze him one bit, for he finds it very funny, supported by line 5: "But I laugh."
Furthermore, while secluded in the kitchen, he eats well. Not only does he find amusement and eat well in his unpleasant situation, but the isolation also has a positive effect on him because he becomes stronger, verified by line 7: "And grow strong." This line shows that even though the servant pains in submission, he will not let it kill his spirit.
The heart of the poem demonstrates the strength of a black slave who stands up for what is right and says enough is enough:
Tomorrow, I'll sit at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then.
This statement by the slave typifies the true definition of bravery. Yes, his body is subjugated, but his self-esteem resonates power; his body can be overtaken but his mind can not be conquered. With a strong mind, his attitude (toward taking orders) becomes somewhat rebellious.
Moreover, the slave expresses the following: When they finally see a black man at the table, they will recognize the beauty of an African American, and look stupid with shame.
What an amazing poem by Langston Hughes. It is very deep and says a mouthful. The poem "I, Too" shouts for equality and freedom. Hughes depicts a slave who receives horrible treatment from his master, because he is sent away to eat alone in the kitchen when visitors come. This disrespect precipitates strength from the servant who boldly decides to take control and plans to not eat in the kitchen when ordered to do so.
The message of the poem is obvious: Blacks ought to have the same freedom as whites, and take a stand when need be. Hughes expresses his feelings by saying that blacks have equal rights too, like every white person in the world. The last line, "I, too, am America," is a perfect closure to an excellent poem.
More important, the title - "I, Too" - has major importance, because it implicates that multiple races make up the face of America and not only whites.
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[January 28, 2008]