Langston Hughes (1902-1967), poet, novelist, playwright, columnist and social activist
LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN
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 black man 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 black man, 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 abuse 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
– Langston Hughes
It seems a lot of us could do with a re-read of Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again” … I love this country but it never was and is not now a good time had by all. Let’s work together and continue to make it and the world better place (i.e., safe, respectful, diverse, and equitable). Let’s not go back(ward) again. J.D.
Langston Hughes’ House in Harlem
Misery is when you heard
on the radio that the neighborhood
you live in is a slum but
you always thought it was home.
– Langston Hughes
“Langston Hughes House is a historic home located in Harlem, New York, New York. It is an Italianate style dwelling built in 1869. It is a three story with basement, rowhouse faced in brownstone and measuring 20 feet wide and 45 feet deep. Noted African American poet and author Langston Hughes (1902-1967) occupied the top floor as his workroom from 1947 to 1967. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.” [Wikipedia]
I, Too, Arts Collective
Harlem-based writer, Renee Watson, just initiated an Indigogo campaign to raise the money to rent Langston’s house and turn it into a cultural center, “for emerging and established artists in Harlem to create, connect, and showcase work…” MORE
If you are reading this from an email subscription, it’s likely that you will have to link through to the site to view the video …
According to Renee, the “I, Too, Arts Collective” is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. Our first major project is to provide a space for emerging and established artists in Harlem to create, connect, and showcase work. Our goal is to lease and renovate the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived in Harlem as a way to not only preserve his legacy but also to build on it and impact young poets and artists.”
Photo credits: Langston Hughes’ photograph is from the Carl Van Vetchten collection of the U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division id# cph.3a42821 and is in the public domain; the photograph of his house is courtesy of Americasroof under CC BY 3.0 license