I once believed in America

I, Too
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.

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

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

I, too, am America.

When Hughes wrote this poem it was a singularly significant affirmation to tell the history of United States through the lens of the African-American experience. It embodies that history at a particular point in the early 20th century when Jim Crow laws throughout the South enforced racial segregation; and argues against those who would deny that importance—and that presence.
Although today, it could be any immigrants story as most of us know all too well.

2 thoughts on “I once believed in America

  1. Lyn, I LOVE this poem! I just started a new poetry journal where I am copying in poems I particularly like, and this is #1! My favorite line(s) are “But I laugh,/and eat well,” I laugh, I laugh! I’m not going to let them keep me down. And I also like “They’ll see how beautiful I am/and be ashamed -” We’re not quite there yet. But I keep hoping!


  2. I believe too. I refuse to give our present time dominion in my life. Reminds of a Dylan poem, Death Shall Have No Dominion is a good poem to add to your book.

    And Death Shall Have No Dominion
    Dylan Thomas

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead man naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

    I have been collecting favorites in my online blog at WDC for a very long time now. Hughes and Dylan were frequent additions.


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