I, Too, Sing America Theme of Race
The most prevalent theme of "I, Too, Sing America" is shown clearly through the poem's setting (we'll go over it here, but for more, see "Setting") – a white household with black slaves or servants. The poem begins by focusing on America's history of racial oppression, but looks towards a brighter future, when white Americans will recognize black Americans as their equals, and be ashamed of their previous prejudice.
Questions About Race
- How would you describe the speaker's attitude towards race relations in America? Do the speaker's feelings change throughout the poem? How so?
- Can you point out some specific examples of how the speaker of the poem relates to white Americans? What does he think of them? How can you tell?
- In what ways could this poem be about pre-Civil War America? How could it be about pre-Civil Rights (a.k.a. Jim Crow) America? Could it be about America today?
- Why do you think that Langston Hughes references Walt Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing"? Why a Whitman poem? And why that poem in particular?
Chew on This
In "I, Too, Sing America," the speaker criticizes the inequalities of both historical and contemporary (1940s) race relations in America.
This poem argues that even an institution such as slavery can be broken down through hard work and perseverance.