The Dream: Langston Hughes’ Poetry


by Delricho Simmons

Equality in the world—political, economic, and social—has been accomplished. Bravo, World! It is a no brainer, anymore. Like smallpox, inequality has been knocked-out. Today, there is no longer call for marching, boycotting, or even voting. Moreover, people of all races can do everything as equals. People no longer have to dream. Amen!

 This speech above is not exact. For instance, several farm workers subsist in slavery even today– even in the U.S. These people are not free to run off. According to Mark Bittman, writer for the New York Times,

“Unlike corn and soy, tomatoes’ harvest cannot be automated; it takes workers to pick that fruit. And not only have workers been enslaved, they have been routinely beaten, subject to sexual harassment, exposed to toxic chemicals … and forced to wait for hours to find out whether they have work on a given day. Oh, and they’re underpaid.”

This is not the America that Martin Luther King sought saying that he would not get there with the rest of us. This is not the America Langston Hughes wanted, either. What is that Dream?

Langston Hughes in his poem, “A Dream Deferred,” wrote that the dream can be like “a raisin in the sun” or a piece of rotten meat. The dream overlooked, obscured, and crushed can only assemble like this for so long before it detonates.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
The Dream is that everyone must be equal—a man must be acted toward like a man, a woman must be behaved toward like a woman— with no more Pharaohs. All people regardless of race, sex, or money must be treated the same in America.
Still today, in voting, Jim Crow can set back that dream. In addition, in the fast food market as seen with the tomato workers, the dream can be deferred by slavery and cruelty.
Langston Hughes, born in Joplin Missouri in 1902, aimed to write poems as if he was writing the blues. His first book was The Weary Blues. He considered himself American and Black.
Many people considered him a voice of his people. That African-American voice was trusted to people like Hughes and given to America. The Dream came from the plantation then migrated to the city.
Langston Hughes was involved with the New York Harlem Renaissance. This was the golden age of black entertainment and writing. This was a time to throw worn-out ideas of the past and light the way for younger African Americans artist and writers. Langston Hughes wrote, “I, Too, Sing America” just like Walt Whitman.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.
Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.
The Great Depression was hard on the Dream, the Black Renaissance. Yet, this Renaissance was about Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Tupac, Master P., Quincy Jones, Alice Walker, Tyler Perry— people contributing to America through their common dreams of art and politics. Listen up America.
No group of people should be kept down. All people deserve equality in political, social, and economic America. All people should have freedom of speech. All people should be free from slavery.
The Dream should not be deferred, as Langston Hughes contends, or else it rises up. The dream can find a crack in the concrete as a rose wrote, Tupac Shakur:
“Did you hear about the rose
that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong
it learned to walk without having feet.
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