Let America Be America Again
By Langston Hughes
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.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
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.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
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 dreams 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.
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, Negro’s, ME–
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!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
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!
James Mercer Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry.
Langston Hughes wrote from 1926 to 1967. In that time he wrote more than 60 books, including poems, novels, short stories, plays, children’s poetry, musicals, operas, and autobiographies. He was the first African American to support himself as a writer, and he wrote from his own experience.
Langston Hughes, whose full name was James Mercer Langston Hughes, was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He was the only son of James Nathaniel Hughes and Carrie Mercer Langston. His parents divorced when he was young and his father moved to Mexico. Because his mother traveled a lot to find work and was often absent, his grandmother raised Hughes until he was 12. His childhood was lonely and he often occupied himself with books. It was Hughes’s grandmother, a great storyteller, who transferred to him her love of literature and the importance of becoming educated.In 1914 he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her new husband. It was here that he started writing poetry — he wrote his first poem in the eighth grade. A year later the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. Despite all the moving around, Hughes was a good student and excelled in his studies. He was also good-looking and popular with the other students, during his senior year at Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, he was voted class poet and editor of the yearbook.
“It was Hughes’s grandmother, a great storyteller, who transferred to him her love of literature and the importance of becoming educated.”
After high school, Hughes traveled in Mexico, Europe, and Africa — sometimes by working on freighters. By 1924 he had settled in Harlem, New York, and was an important figure during the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was an African-American cultural movement that focused on literature, music, theater, art, and politics. One of his favorite pastimes was to sit in clubs and listen to the blues as he wrote his poetry.
Hughes died on May 22, 1967, in New York, NY. Some of his books for children and young adults include: Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti , The Dream Keeper and Other Poems , The First Book of Negroes , The First Book of Rhythms , Famous Negro Music Makers and Don’t You Turn Back .
In February 2002 the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Langston Hughes. This stamp was the 25th in the Black Heritage series and marked Hughes’s 100th birthday.