Langston Hughes wrote this poem in 1935 (it was published in 1936), during the middle of the Great Depression. As suddenly poorer white people pulled their money out of Harlem after the 1929 stock market crash, Harlem gradually withered, and the hopes that animated the Harlem Renaissance (of which Hughes was a major figure) began to wither too.
Hughes' poem reflects in its theme a sense that the idea behind America is being lost and is in need of revival. As he notes in the poem, the ideal of America as a "strong land of love" without kings or tyrants, a land of "Liberty" and "Equality," has never been realized for black people like him, nor for immigrants, who live in the land where the strong "crush the weak," nor for the "red man," the "farmer," or the "worker." He cries out that he and millions like him are not "free."
Despite the fact that the dream of what America is supposed to represent has never been enacted for most Americans, Hughes nevertheless calls for it to be revived and to be...
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