Art & Culture

Reflections on I, Too

By Sasha Smalls

Volume 1 Issue 5

February 12, 2021

Reflections on I, Too

Original image by Sasha Smalls

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


~Langston Hughes


Poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, columnist, James Mercer Langston Hughes, stands out as a prolific leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Above, Hughes’s famed poem I, Too, communicates his interpretation and vision of  the Black experience in America through its diction, repetition, and chronological structure.


I refers to Black people, and They refers to oppression and discrimination in its broadest terms-including the oppressors. Arguably, the substitution of I for we could equally deliver the message that Hughes refers to Black people. However, I creates a singularity, I conveys unification of Black Americans.


The word Tomorrow, indicates Hughes’s looks towards a later date: a point in America’s timeline when Black people enjoy the same fruits of existence fortified by the Declaration of Independence and promised in the 14th amendment. Yet, Tomorrow’s dawn is subjective. Some may argue Yesterday would be a more fitting term, perhaps referencing the 13th amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Others may choose to believe Tomorrow represents a change in disposition, as opposed to legislation. In that case, Tomorrow can not be pinpointed by a calendar date. Tomorrow symbolizes comprehension, equity above equality, justice, and more. But, as Hughes says, that is

Then.


A message from BSU: To learn more about Black History, we recommend visiting the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, when the pandemic is over if you are ever visiting those areas.  We suggest reading the New York Times Bestseller Stamped Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.