Copyrightfrom The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Alfred Knopf, 2002), by permission of David Higham Associates. Recording from The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, Smithsonian Folkways , 1955.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was the first black writer in America to earn his living from writing. Born in Joplin, Missouri, he spent parts of his childhood in the American Mid-West and Mexico. At school Langston read and was influenced by the poets Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman. He attended Columbia University from 1921-1922 but left, disillusioned by the coolness of his white peers. He travelled, first on a freighter to Africa (where the lack of political and economic freedom of the native people disturbed him) and then extensively in Europe before heading back to the USA. 'I, Too' was written just before his return, after he'd been denied passage on a ship because of his colour, and is powerful in its expression of social injustice. The calm clear statements of the 'I' have an unstoppable force, like the progress the poem envisages. Langston Hughes died in 1967 in New York, having lived into the Decade of Protest and seen many of the reforms he'd fought for introduced.
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