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Langston Hughes: Racism

During the Harlem Renaissance an explosion in artistic expression among African Americans occurred. Coinciding with this expression was a questioning by African Americans of racism in white America and of new expressions of identity and success. So, too, the impact of centuries of slavery and racism on subsequent generations also became a focus of black artists. One of the most successful poets and authors of the age was Langston Hughes. In many of his poems the author questions racism and its impact on African Americans. In others he questions the hypocrisy of democratic values that seem to exclude blacks. It is Hughes' own life experiences with racism and prejudice that inspired his creative expression. Throughout these poems, Hughes serves as a voice of hope and justice for African Americans, despite living in a racist society.

In a segregated and racist society, African Americans routinely faced all manner of discrimination, prejudice and even violence. The land of the "free" where all are "equal" did not seem to apply to African Americans. It is these high ideals Langston Hughes refers to in his poem "Let America Be America Again" that also serves as a critique of the hypocrisy and inequality behind the American Dream. Hughes' speaker makes a plea for the America of these high ideals to be again. However, he sarcastically reminds us that these ideals that are considered the very hallmark of American democracy have never been afforded to African Americans. As Hughes writes, "America never was America to me /...It never was America to me /...There's never been equality for me, / Nor freedom in this homeland of the free" (1). Showing the determination of African Americans to endure this lack of social justice, Hughes' poem ends on a powerful note of hope and optimism in the power of the African American culture to endure and in his faith in America's most cherished ideals: "We, the people, must redeem...

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Langston Hughes: Racism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:08, May 25, 2020, from