Throughout history, our country has been advertised as a beacon of liberty and freedom. In reality, those ideals are nothing more than dreams for Many Americans. Langston Hughes uses his poems to discuss the racial and economic inequities that persist in America, despite the encouraging rhetoric that is promulgated by white, wealthy America. In his poem, “Let America Be America Again, Hughes acknowledges disparities in American prosperity, saying, “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” (Hughes). Hughes first identifies the large swaths of the population that face oppression every day, then criticizes the capitalist structure of our American economy that stimulates class divisions that often fall along racial lines. In a much more individual sense, Langston is describing “the man who never got ahead” because of financial restrictions or racial discrimination.
Hughes’ criticism of the status quo is only part of “Let America Be America Again.” In the latter half of the poem, Hughes challenges the United States to live up to the lofty ideals that the founders set for the nation. Hughes says, “O, let America be America again—The land that never has been yet—And yet must be—the land where every man is free” (Hughes). Hughes argued that the United States could not continue to hide behind the guise of universal opportunity and equality. According to Hughes, in order to achieve this vision, the United States must rebuild itself rather than attempting to work within the constraints of a broken system manufactured to perpetuate discrimination and economic inequities.