The Master at Portraying Black Life
My favorite poem by Langston Hughes is I, Too. It’s a short free-verse poem that focuses on African-American identity within the dominant white culture of the United States. It encapsulates the history of oppression of black people by means of slavery and denial of rights.
I, Too is an informal poem, despite it being nearly one hundred years old. The short lines send a message of deliberate, direct speech - the speaker is addressing an audience, or replying to a rhetorical question.
The poem’s first person male speaker could be young or old but is sending out the relevant message of hope for change. Because the speaker is in a house, metaphorically the USA, Langston Hughes brings the issue of black rights into the personal domestic space of the American people.
When this poem was first published in 1926, he struck a nerve which helped to open up the issue of civil rights. I, Too is seen as one of the poems that informed thinking in mainstream society at the time and is still relevant today.
I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table When company comes. Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” Then. Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America.