Let America be America Again

Langston Hughes, the African American writer who was a leader in the Harlem Renaissance wrote Let America be America Again  in 1935. I quote a couple of the most telling sections below. Eighty-five years after they were written they are still relevant.

 

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.)

…………………………………………………..

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 Negro 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.

……………………………………………………..

 

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 dream 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.

 

To read the whole poem go to poetryfoundation.org

To read more of this wonderful poet read the collected poems shown above.

9 thoughts on “Let America be America Again

  1. Thanks Gert. He says it well — the American Dream didn’t/doesn’t come true for many people. I don’t think that we are unique in that, but perhaps unique in holding out the dream so boldly and with not enough foundation. When Jim was in Israel in 1970, what many Israelis wanted more than anything was to be just like America. By 2010 when we were there, in many ways it was. So the dream has a hold on many people across the globe, as Hughes points out.

    Also, the dream looks different from a variety of perspectives, so that it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what it is. He says that it’s “almost dead today . . . ” and goes on to say:

    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath—
    America will be!

    . . . .
    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!

    1. I like that he names the many who miss out; poor whites, Indigenous people, black people, immigrants. Maybe we are coming into a time where the people can be redeemed.

  2. My brother is currently reading a book called The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger. Maybe that has something to do with this mess. He’s going to send me the book so I’ll get a chance to read it.
    Leslie

  3. I have just listened to Noam Chomsky repeat in different ways that there is no such thing as The American Dream now and he decries the state of ?America today

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