This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Let America Be America Again” (1936) by Langston Hughes. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was an American poet and columnist. Hughes’ poetry mainly reflects the experience of black people in America. Hughes is also known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. The poem “Let America Be America Again” was written in 1935 and published in 1936 in a summer issue of Esquire Magazine.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
The first rhetorical questions introduced in the poem are spoken by an unknown voice who questions the speaker’s attitude towards America: “Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?/ And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?” (ll. 17-18). While there is no indication regarding the identity of the voice who is asking the questions, we can assume they are voiced by people who do not understand the speaker’s experience.
A series of rhetorical questions is introduced towards the end of the poem when the speaker questions the idea of freedom:
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? (ll. 51-55)...