Poetry Focus: Singing America

Langston Hughes’ 1925 poem “I, Too, Sing America” is one of the best-known of all poems of the Harlem Renaissance. Its message of inclusive hope reverberated across the twentieth century and continues to be a touchstone for people seeking a place at the table. Here are several interpretations of the poem to consider as you review the text.

First, Langston Hughes reading his own poem:

The political advocacy group Emerging US made the poem the focal point for this video focusing on the Mexican-American experience in Los Angeles:


YouTube user IndianaTheGreat juxtaposed images from the Civil Rights Era to audio of Denzel Washington reading the poem in the film The Great Debaters and clips from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.

Hughes’s poem was written as a response to Walt Whitman’s famous free-verse poem “I Hear America Singing.” This visual representation of the poem by YouTube user Dustin Rowland illustrates the breadth of the American experience Whitman intended to celebrate.

Finally, this is Whitman himself, reading his poem “America.” 

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