MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Today, as I was lounging about, reading some poetry (yeah, I know, that sounds unbearably pretentious, doesn’t it? But I was…really!) Anyway, I ran across a poem by the great Langston Hughes, which enlightened me to the fact that, the president-elect’s campaign mantra of “MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN!” was/is not, in toto, underivative.
The poem was written in 1935. It was originally published in the July 1936 issue of Esquire Magazine. It was later republished in the 1937 to be read issue of Kansas Magazine and was revised and included in a small collection of Langston Hughes poems entitled A New Song, published by the International Workers Order in 1938.

 

 

The title of the poem is, LET AMERICAN BE AMERICA AGAIN and its venerable verses follow:

 
“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

 

(America never was America to me.)

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

 

(It never was America to me.)

 

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

 

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

 

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

 

I am the poor White, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the Red Man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

 

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

 

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

 

 

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

 

 

The free?

 

 

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

 

 

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

 

 

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

 

 

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

 

 

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

 
Langston Hughes

12 Comments

  1. What a powerful poem, Ron. The images that are evoked are thoughtful and deeply moving. America was created with the express purpose of being a land where people could have religious freedom and a haven for the oppressed. We are a great, big melting pot. That is what makes us a unique and beautiful country. There is a challenge before us. Collectively we need to rise to the occasion to meet it head on. The key is that we have to do this together. I still believe that it can be done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes Susan, the words are powerful. It’s sad too that the message, written so long ago, is still si relevant.

      We’re making the great poet into a prophet.

      I don’t think that was his intent. We must change direction.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ron, I love this poem! It’s Indisputable great! Langston Hughes was a marvelous poet! His works beautifully depicted the culture of blacks. However, because of his stance on “black is beautiful” in his writings, he was considered the most abused poet in America!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A timely reminder Ron. What an amazing poem, so much slow, steady deep power just like an calm ocean.
    My own conclusions from reading histories is that most countries would rather not be reminded of all the details of their pasts. There never was a perfect or innocent time. (In the UK context ‘An Avalon’ or ‘Camelot’). We only strive to learn from our mistakes and strive to do better.
    The USA being young and a multiplicity of cultures has the potential to achieve this maybe more than other lands weary from centuries of wars upon their soils. Sadly there is also the potential the fragment away from the federation of states. Something of a crossroads time.
    I wish you all well.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Ron

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In the film ‘Courage Under Fire’ the Meg Ryan character takes a bullet to the abdomen; another character (male) gets into a spin over this, she snarls back “If I can give birth to a 9lb daughter I can handle this!’
        In this life one thing I have learnt is your Ordinary Mere Male should not comment on such matters.

        Liked by 1 person

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