Claude McKay and Langston Hughes were both part of the Harlem Renaissance time period; were they experienced the harsh realities of racism. McKay and Hughes were major figures of that time, who would write novels, poetry, short stories, etc. McKay wrote a well-known poem known as, “America”; where he expresses, positively and negatively, his feelings toward America. On the other hand, Hughes wrote a poem titled “I, Too, Sing America”, which demonstrates the confidence and the assurance he has in himself.
Both Claude McKay’s poem “America” and Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too, Sing America” convey the message of segregation and America’s future. Love and hate are very different emotions which easily connect, which is the back bone of the poem “America”. McKay begins with a personification, “she feeds me bread of bitterness”; by needing “her” to feed him, he shows dependence to America. “Bread of bitterness” is a metaphor describing how black Americans were given limited rights; they were being restricted, which is where the bitterness grew from. I love this cultured hell that tests my youth”, this stanza expresses his mixed emotions towards America. He loves this “cultured hell” because he learns from the bad, which teaches him to succeed. “Giving me strength erect against her hate” while the speaker is confidently declaring that America is the source of his strength, he is rebelling against her who is the provider of that strength and using it to stand up against the racial hate that was established during this time period in America.
Though he looks into the future with a negative aspect, as if there freedom is going to disappear; “Like priceless treasure sinking in the sand”. I, Too, Sing America” is a poem made to demonstrate the division between whites and blacks. This meek poem says so much more than is actually written. The poem starts off with an obvious act of isolation towards the black Americans; the owners are ashamed of him therefore, he is sent to the “kitchen” when company visits. Disregard to what his owner says Hughes finds amusement to it, “But I laugh”, for the reason that it doesn’t bother him because he sees himself growing from this, “And I eat well, and grow strong”.
Then, “tomorrow” when black Americans stand up for themselves no one will dare to neither try and send him away nor tell him to “eat in the kitchen”, because he will finally have a chance to show how beautiful he really is. Then and there they’ll be ashamed because they will finally realize that all blacks should have the same rights as any white American. The key to the poem is the famous “I, Too, Sing America”; demonstrates that no matter the color he too can sing the National Anthem even if he is not white.
Overall, the strong use of metaphor and duplicity within these poems helps guide the reader into fully understanding this poem. McKay presents the division that many blacks felt during this time period. McKay is unfolding the strange place in which blacks found themselves in the early 20th century. They were technically free under the law, but were shunned by racism in society. Along with McKay, Hughes poem’s over all message was that those with darker skin are equals to those with lighter skin; so once he takes a stand they’ll look at him and truly see how much they are worth.