How is orature traceable in Langston Hughes's poem "I, Too"?

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Orature is traceable in "I, Too" in that the poem invokes the past and contains an idea, a concept, passed down through history among African American people in their oral tradition before it was given literary form.

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Orature is defined as a body of poetry having roots in oral tradition, extending back in time to a period in history possibly before verse was written down. In this poem, it's seems that Hughes is recalling a past time, particularly the antebellum period before African Americans were emancipated.

But the poignancy of this, and of other works by Hughes, lies in the fact that it also describes the present. The speaker could be an enslaved person, but his identity is contemporary as well. The significance of

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes

is that even after emancipation, this is still the case. Is it, one may ask, only the Jim Crow South in which this social distance between Black and white is forcibly being maintained? And what is the overall meaning of Hughes's allusions to "America"?

As a concept, "America" has been thought of as symbolic of freedom and equality. But the obvious fact is that Black people were deliberately excluded from the liberty that white people so often celebrated. Hughes makes the point that a continuum exists throughout the history of the United States in spite of the changes that have occurred up through his time, the early twentieth century. The poem has the feel of the past, but it predicts a future in which the wrongs of the past will be corrected:


I'll be at the table

When company comes.

This is the dream deferred that Hughes refers to in another, perhaps more famous poem. In "I, Too," he invokes a collective voice, as poetry that stems from an oral tradition often does. He, just as his forefathers did, asks why America has been thought the birthright of some people, and not everyone, and envisions a future when this obvious absurdity of exclusion will be corrected.

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