The works of Langston Hughes, a 20th century African American poet and one of the prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance era, remain very powerful and relevant to this day. Langston Hughes used his poems in order to promote African American culture and express his desire for racial justice and equality in America. Hughes’ uses simple language and structure within his poems in order to provide insight on the struggles of Black Americans in the United States during World War II and leading up to the Civil Rights Movement.
In the poem, “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?” Hughes questions whether Black Americans enlisted in the Army, Navy, and Air Corps during World War II would be included and recognized in the celebration of Victory Day, the day that would signify the conclusion of World War II. Hughes argues that Black Americans in World War II “wear a U.S. uniform…have “done the enemy much harm..” and “face death the same as [white men] do…” so therefore should be celebrated during V-Day of World War II, which I completely agree with. Hughes includes the fact that Black Americans were worried that they would be mistreated upon their return to the United States as he mentions “Will you still let old Jim Crow / Hold me back?” and “ Will I still be ill-fated / because I’m black?” Hughes’ sentiments within these lines represent the feelings of Black men who were fighting in World War II. It is awful that Blacks were not treated equally during World War II as they fought and died for the freedom of our country.
In the poem “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes highlights the struggles of Blacks due the immense racial inequality in the United States. Hughes questions the fact that America is the “Land of the Free” as he states “Who said the free? Not me?” Hughes protests the oppression of Blacks in the United States and advocates for racial and social equality of Blacks in the United States. Hughes message within this poem still is relevant to this day due to the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Langston Hughes poems were extremely impactful on society and contributed to the increase in racial equality and termination of racial segregation in the United States at the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement.