Let America be America Again
"Let America Be America Again" is a poem written in 1935 by America poet, Langston Hughes. It was originally published in the July 1936 issue of Esquire Magazine. It was later republished in the 1937 to be read issue of Kansas Magazine and was revised and included in a small collection of Langston Hughes poems entitled A New Song, published by the International Workers Order in 1938.
The poem speaks of the American dream that never existed for the lower-class American . It also talks about the freedom and equality that every immigrant hoped for but never achieved. In his poem, Hughes represents not only African Americans, but other economically disadvantaged and minority groups as well. Besides criticizing the unfair life in America, the poem conveys a sense of hope that the American Dream is soon to come.
The title of this poem was used by Democratic United States senator John Kerry as a campaign slogan in his 2004 presidential campaign. In 2011 an exploratory committee for conservative Republican former senator Rick Santorum used a variant of the phrase ("Fighting to make America America again") on its website; told of the slogan's derivation from the Hughes poem, Santorum stated he had "nothing to do with" its use by the committee. Additionally, the satirical website RestoringTruthiness.org refutes the idea Santorum appropriated Hughes's language, claiming that the phrase "make America America again" is "not unique nor very original."
Full text of the poem
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 black man 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 black man, 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 abuse 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
- The Collected Works of Langston Hughes: Gospel plays, operas, and later, p. xv.
- Jean Wagner, Black Poets of the United States: From Paul Laurence Dunbar to Langston Hughes, p. 451.
- Halbfinger, David (June 1, 2004). "In Five Words by Langston Hughes, Kerry Aides Hear a Campaign Slogan". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (April 16, 2011). "Rick Santorum says he had 'nothing to do with' campaign slogan taken from Langston Hughes poem". Los Angeles Times.
- "Did Former Fox News Contributer [sic] Rick Santorum Rip Off Langston Hughes?". Restoring Truthiness.
- "Let America Be America Again" full text on Poets.org