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Langston Hughes's Unity, Equality, and Freedom in American Society: The Key Concepts and Ideas

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Langston Hughes was a widely known poet in America because of his ideas, and his writing. Many people also refer to Hughes as the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. His works were a big inspiration during the twentieth century, and they continue to be used in present day. Hughes is mainly recognized because of the strong messages he expressed within his poems were relatable to a lot of people during his time. Langston Hughes conveyed many of his beliefs and ideas through his works. Some of the main themes Hughes focused on were freedom, unity, and equality.

To begin, Langston Hughes conveys the idea of unity throughout his poems. For example, in the poem “Open Letter to the South” Hughes uses different rhetorical strategies, and figurative language to express his ideas of unity. In stanza 4, lines 1-3 states, “ Let us become instead, you and I; One single hand; That can unite rise” (Hughes). These lines imply the fact that Hughes wants Whites and Blacks to come together as one. He even uses the metaphor “one single hand” to give the reader a visual of how he pictures different races working as one. Langson continues this idea in stanza 5, lines 7-8 when he states, “Let us together, say: You are my brother, black or white” Hughes calls the audience his brothers and sisters no matter their race. By doing this he tries to create a close relationship with those who might be against people of their opposite race. Langston’s goal for creating “Open Letter to the South” is to encourage blacks and whites to come together; by doing so he believes society as a whole will become better and stronger.

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Additionally, Hughes also expresses his ideas of equality in America in through his work. In the poem “Let America Be America Again.” In the poem Langston Hughes voices how he wants America to be great once again, but for everyone. He explains how he wants liberty, and the chance of opportunity for everyone in America, no matter the ethnicity. In lines 1-5 hughes states, “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” (Hughes). In this first stanza Hughes shows indication that America has changed from what it use to be. America had changed from the place where people seek opportunity, and fulfill dreams; to a place where only a select few have the chance to succeed. In the last sentence when Langston states, “America never was America to me” (Hughes). He shows how the black men and women never had the opportunity for success. These ideas are continued in stanza 3 lines 11-16 when he states, “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’ (Hughes). Langston expresses how America is suppose to represent freedom, and equality for all. On the other hand the last 2 lines of stanza 3 state otherwise. He says how there is no equality in America. Because Hughes is a black male he was not considered equal. He also says that he was never free in America like the moto “homeland of the free” implies. Langston tries to connect back to the major theme of equality because he believes that America has become corrupt, and the unfair. He believes that America has shifted to a segregated point of view, where only white citizens can achieve the dream. Hughes starts to conclude his poem by stating, “O, yes; I say it plain; America never was America to me; And yet I swear this oath–;America will be” (Hughes). Langston does this to symbolize that America isn’t in his favor now, but one day it will be; in his and everyone else’s no matter their race.

Kristen’s analysis of Hughes “Let America Be America Again” was similar to the central idea that Hughes wanted people understand. She states,”In “Let America Be America Again,” Langston Hughes openly shares his thoughts on the American Dream…Throughout the poem, Hughes contrasts his hopes for America with the reality of life for those outside of the socially and economically dominant racial, religious, and social groups. He evokes the fervent dreams of those who came to the United States because they saw it as a haven where they could be safe from the persecution they endured in their homelands – but those dreams of America have never come true” (Osborne). This paragraph makes it clearer to the reader about what Hughes intentions were when he wrote this poem. Kristen hits the nail on the head when she states, “…but those dreams of America have never come true” (Osborne). This is exactly how Hughes wanted the people to analysis this poem because he even states, “America never was America to me” (Hughes). This shows that those dreams that America were suppose to hold doesn’t become a reality for everyone. Kristen continues her analysis by writing, “The speaker cries out that the ‘Negroes,’ immigrants, and poor people must rise up and redefine American equality as it was always meant to be. He states emphatically, “We must take back our land again, / America!” Even if America is now currently plagued by discrimination and greed, the speaker (and Hughes) believe that it can be improved. Thus, the poem ends on an optimistic, powerful note of self-determination and perseverance” (Osborne). Similar to Hughes, Kristen believes that he wants equality for all. She addresses the point that he wanted America to become everyone’s land, and not just a certain group of people. Kristen understood that Hughes wanted America to become a better place for all those who came seeking freedom, and opportunity. This is why she believed that his ending statements were powerful and encouraging to those people of his time. Hughes and Kristen both knew that America could be better if everyone had the same opportunities.

Thirdly, Langston conveys the ideas of freedom in his poem “Freedom’s Plow.” In stanza 8 lines 100 – 108 Hughes states, “But not so long ago at that Lincoln said: NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH; TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN; WITHOUT THAT OTHER’S CONSENT; There were slaves then, too; But in their hearts the slaves knew; What he said must be meant for every human being-; Else it had no meaning for anyone” (Hughes). This quote represents Hughes ideas of freedom because he knew that humans weren’t suppose to be control by other humans without their permission. This is why he included what Lincoln said to show that everyone is suppose to be free, but they are not. The slaves represent those in captivity. They knew they were also supposed to be free which is why they believed in those words that Lincoln spoke. Hughes continues this idea in lines 109 -115 by writing, “Then a man said: BETTER TO DIE FREE; THAN TO LIVE SLAVES; He was a colored man who had been a slave; But had run away to freedom; And the slaves knew; What Frederick Douglass said was true” (Hughes). Langston uses Frederick’s quote to expand his idea on freedom. He agrees that it is better to be dead and free than to live under another man’s rule. Hughes believes that freedom is better than being enslaved no matter the circumstance.

In Langston’s “I Dream A World” Poem he express his ideas of both unity and freedom. In lines 3 – 6 Hughes states, “Where love will bless the earth; And peace its paths adorn; I dream a world where all; Will know sweet freedom’s way” (Hughes). This quote shows that Langston wanted the world to be peaceful, and that he wanted everyone to be free. He wanted people, no matter their race, to be free, and treated as if they were. He continues this idea in lines 9 -12 when he writes, “A world I dream where black or white; Whatever race you be; Will share the bounties of the earth; And every man is free” (Hughes). He includes these lines to show his thoughts on unity. Hughes goes as far to say, “Whatever race you be” this shows that he wants everyone to come together, and to share the earth as we should. He doesn’t want different races to be segregated from another.

Though Langston Hughes was an inspiration to many people throughout his life, there were some who didn’t think Hughes was a good poet. The article, “Langston Hughes” states, “Despite Heyward’s statement, much of Hughes’s early work was roundly criticized by many black intellectuals for portraying what they thought to be an unattractive view of black life. In his autobiographical The Big Sea, Hughes commented: “Fine Clothes to the Jew was well received by the literary magazines and the white press, but the Negro critics did not like it at all. The Pittsburgh Courier ran a big headline across the top of the page, LANGSTON HUGHES’ BOOK OF POEMS TRASH. The headline in the New York Amsterdam News was LANGSTON HUGHES—THE SEWER DWELLER” (“Langston Hughes”). This quote shows that even though some people saw Hughes as a inspiration, some of his fellow “brothers and sisters” didn’t appreciate what he was focusing on. They even go as far to comparing his book of poems to trash even though they were meant to empower blacks. On the other hand, some people did agree with Hughes on his views. Specifically, Gibson states, “Hughes “has perhaps the greatest reputation (worldwide) that any black writer has ever had. Hughes differed from most of his predecessors among black poets, and (until recently) from those who followed him as well, in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to black people. During the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read” (Gibson). This shows that not all blacks thought of Hughes ideas as trash, they actually agreed with him, and understood where he was coming from. They believed that Hughes was just being different from other writers by expressing the truth about situations that were occurring.

In conclusion, Langston Hughes contributed to many ideas that people have about society today. He inspired those of his time to bring unity, equality, and freedom to those in America, and he still influences those of modern day era to do the same. He believed that as a whole people can accomplish more, and make the world a better place.

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