What is the subject matter of the poem "I, Too" by Langston Hughes?

The subject of the poem "I, Too" by Langston Hughes is the oppression of African Americans in a period of Jim Crow laws. Hughes addresses the hope for African Americans to have a physical and metaphorical seat at the table, meaning sharing the same facilities as whites and having their opinions heard. The poem looks to a possible future with racial inclusion.

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The historical context is important to decipher the true subject of this poem. Hughes published this poem during the Harlem Renaissance, long before the Civil Rights Movement. During this time, Jim Crow Laws dictated many facets of American society, dividing the world into areas for whites and areas for blacks.

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The historical context is important to decipher the true subject of this poem. Hughes published this poem during the Harlem Renaissance, long before the Civil Rights Movement. During this time, Jim Crow Laws dictated many facets of American society, dividing the world into areas for whites and areas for blacks.

In this poem, the speaker has been literally and metaphorically separated from white America, forced to be hidden away from "company." In a literal sense, this conjures a historical era when many upper-class white families hired African Americans to help around their houses; however, in social gatherings, these employees were not to be seen. This is reflected in these lines:

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,

"Having a place at the table" is also a metaphorical phrase used in American society. It means that one's ideas are considered and included. In this poem, the speaker also feels excluded from the metaphorical table, noting that his perspective is not important to whites.

The speaker is dissatisfied but not defeated. Instead, he continues growing strong and laughing. He knows the beauty of his culture and experience, and even in the world of Jim Crow Laws he is confident that one day he, too, will be included in the idea of America. The poem reflects a hopeful possibility for a more inclusive America even in the midst of a historically divisive moment in American history.

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