Let America Be America Again

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."
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,
America!
O, yes,
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!
 
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes
To fling my arms wide
Dreams by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
Life is Fine by Langston Hughes
I went down to the river,
Madam and Her Madam by Langston Hughes
I worked for a woman,
Madam and the Phone Bill by Langston Hughes
You say I O.K.ed
Night Funeral in Harlem by Langston Hughes
Night funeral
Po' Boy Blues by Langston Hughes
When I was home de
The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes
I've known rivers
The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Theme for English B by Langston Hughes
The instructor said,
Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too? by Langston Hughes
Over There, / World War II. / Dear Fellow Americans,


Further Reading

Politics and Patriotism
Howl, Parts I & II
by Allen Ginsberg
America
by James Monroe Whitfield
America
by Robert Creeley
America
by Claude McKay
American History
by Michael S. Harper
American Names
by Stephen Vincent Benét
Bomb Crater Sky
by Lam Thi My Da
Dear George Bush
by Kristin Prevallet
December 2, 2002
by Juliana Spahr
Delicate Cluster
by Walt Whitman
Dolphinating
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Election Day, November, 1884
by Walt Whitman
Election Year
by Donald Revell
Exquisite Candidate
by Denise Duhamel
Exquisite Politics
by Denise Duhamel
Fellini in Purgatory
by Jean Valentine
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
by Carl Sandburg
How We Did It
by Muriel Rukeyser
I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes
In a Country
by Larry Levis
it: a user’s guide
by Evie Shockley
Modern Declaration
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds
by Eleanor Lerman
Patriotics
by David Baker
Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
Thanksgiving Letter from Harry
by Carl Dennis
The Condoleezza Suite [Excerpt]
by Nikky Finney
The Throats of Guantánamo
by Katie Ford
Thoughts
by Walt Whitman
To Roosevelt
by Rubén Darío