The speaker uses a metaphor when she describes “the long dark way / That [she] had to climb . . .” She has not literally physically climbed a darkened path, but she has figuratively done so, and she compares her difficult life to a such a path.
She uses several similes: she says that her face is “dark as the night,” and yet it is “shining like the sun with love’s true light”; a simile compares two unalike things using the word like or as. This is also a paradox: how can her face be both dark and shining? Her skin is dark, but the love within her soul seems to shine through her skin.
Soon, the speaker herself becomes symbolic of the infant abducted from Africa; of the child who crossed the sea; of the slave woman who worked the field; of the slave who was beaten, sold, and separated from her family; and so on: the speaker is a symbol of all these other persons of color who have suffered and longed for the chance to be free.
She uses another simile when she says that “God put a dream...
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