What is the tone of "Let America be America Again" by Langston Hughes?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone or attitude Langston Hughes wants to convey in the poem "Let America be America Again" varies throughout the poem. Hughes begins the poem with a testament of what the American dream was to the pioneers seeking a new life in this country or out West, but he quickly adds that "America never was America to me." His tone is personal and sad, almost wanting of something he never had. He, like other minorities, have been denied the equality and freedom so easily given to other people. He feels he is really not a part of America because he hasn't felt like he has belonged. His tone becomes pleading as he hopes to be included in the "dream the dreamers dreamed". He doesn't want false hope of a country that pretends to be inclusive, rather he wants opportunity that is "real, and life is free."

The lines "There's never been equality for me, Not freedom in this 'homeland of the free'" really shows the level of being disenfranchised from the American dream along with the other blacks, the poor whites, the Native Americans and the immigrants who have not been allowed to assimilate in American society. Here Hughes is hoping the reader receives his message that it is not just blacks who desire to be accepted, but all minorities who dream about being treated like Americans.

The poem, however, turns optimistic at the end with an almost "call to arms" for those who have been forgotten or denied the freedom promised by American laws and values. When Hughes says, "And yet I swear this oath--America will be!" he is asking for help to "redeem" those values by the weak and oppressed. It is an uplifting tone that suggests there is still hope and that freedom and inclusion is worth fighting for.  

It's a beautiful poem that is even relevant today.  

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