I, Too by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Summary and Analysis

‘I, Too’ written just before his return to the States from Europe and after he’d been denied passage on a ship because of his color, has a contemporary feel in contrast to the mythical dimension of ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’. It is no less powerful however, in its expression of social injustice. The calm clear statements of the ‘I’ have an unstoppable force like the progress the poem envisages. Hughes’s dignified introductions to these poems and his beautiful speaking voice render them all the more moving.

Langston wrote the poem “I, Too, Sing America” (1932), to register his protest against the whites who treated the blacks disgracefully. Blacks were discriminated against, killed violently, separated from using the same facilities and being in the same place as whites, just to name a few. The division between whites and blacks was clearly prevalent, with whites faring on the better side of the spectrum. Essentially, the United States of America was a racially discriminatory society reinforced by its racist laws.

This is reason that Langston took the initiative to speak his mind via poetry, and this piece shows that.

The first line of the poem, “I, too, sing America,” clearly signifies one thing: Just because his skin color is different from whites, he argues that he also sings the National Anthem/Star Spangle Banner the same as whites do. More important, the voice of the poem, the servant, argues that he too is American. The poet argues that the Blacks too have same devotion and allegiance to America as their native land and always devote themselves to sing the praise of country with the sense of commitment. There is then no justification in treating them as if they do not belong to the rich culture of America.

The poet says that they are treated disgracefully simply because of the fact they are dark in color and due to this color they are always sent to kitchen to work as servant. This mostly happens when the company of white people comes; they send us to kitchen as they fell insulted to tell that the Blacks are their darker brothers. But this gives them good opportunity to eat well to become physically strong. They also feel foolishness of their attitude and laugh at them that once they become physically fit by feeding themselves with nutritious food; they will not tolerate this kind of derogatory gestures of the whites and will retaliate them to teach a lesson.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

In the following stanza, the poet is very optimistic about the future the Blacks. He tells once they become acquainted with the kitchen culture and become powerful; the whites will have no courage to order them to go back in kitchen to prepare and serve food as servant and follow their commands. These Blacks will not be constrained to obey them; rather they will come on the table and enjoy the delicacy of food along with their white brothers without any fear. They then cannot order them to eat in the kitchen separately and wash the vessels. This will bring them victory and they will restore their lost glory which was contaminated by their white counterparts. Then they will proudly say that they being the indispensable part of America will sing the glory of America authoritatively as true citizens of the land.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

The poet is sure that final stage will be very encouraging for the Blacks when they (Whites) will realize that the Blacks are really handsome and capable, and then they will be ashamed of their cruel, unethical and inhuman treatment against the Blacks forever. This feeling among the Whites will give the Blacks freedom from the callous and unfortunate life of exploitation, disgrace and penury.

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed —
I, too, am America.

The heart of the poem demonstrates the strength of a black slave who stands up for what is right and says enough is enough: What an amazing poem by Langston Hughes. It is very deep and says a mouthful. The poem “I, Too” shouts for equality and freedom. Hughes depicts a slave who receives horrible treatment from his master, because he is sent away to eat alone in the kitchen when visitors come. This disrespect precipitates strength from the servant who boldly decides to take control and plans to not eat in the kitchen when ordered to do so.

The message of the poem is obvious: Blacks ought to have the same freedom as whites, and take a stand when need be.

Hughes expresses his feelings by saying that blacks have equal rights too, like every white person in the world. The last line, “I, too, am America,” is a perfect closure to an excellent poem.

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