Guiding Question: To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century?
- I can interpret primary sources related to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice in the first half of the twentieth century.
- I can explain how laws and policy, courts, and individuals and groups contributed to or pushed back against the quest for liberty, equality, and justice for African Americans.
- I can create an argument using evidence from primary sources.
- I can analyze issues in history to help find solutions to present-day challenges.
Langston Hughes was one of the most famous writers of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural and intellectual revival of African American art in the 1920s and 1930s. Hughes is most well-known for his poetry, but he also wrote novels, plays, short stories, and essays. Hughes published his first book of poems in 1926. In the following poem, he expressed both the “American Dream” of liberty and equal opportunity and the reality of the hardships and inequality faced by African Americans.
Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”, 1936
Source Link: https://poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again
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 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.
. . .
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,
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!
Comprehension and Analysis Questions
- Why does Hughes state in the second stanza, “There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free’”?
- How does Hughes end the poem?