Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again” works through three stories, the poor white man, the black man, and the immigrant, to address class, race, and borders. The American Dream is more than the house with a white picket fence, two kids, and a dog, which has been tossed aside as implausible. The American Dream is a search for a land that is safe from turmoil inside and outside. This Dream is not particular to Americans or even the human race, but all living beings. A desire for the ability to live and prosper.
America is “Tangled in that ancient endless chain/ Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!” The poor, the black, and the immigrant are divisions created by the exploiters to divide and conquer all. The problems of America are ultimately from greed. Of taking more than you need, more than you could ever use, for the sake of power, at the expense of other people. Of not seeing people as people, but animals to be taken advantage of.
Even though America has not been the land of the free, to Hughes America embodies the hope that one day it will be, with “The land that never had been yet-/ And yet must be – the land where every man is free.” Even though the American Dream of the white picket fence does not exist, the American Dream of the free and safe home still exists as a driving hope.
America is derived from Amalrich, meaning “work-ruler” (Online Etymology). Is America ruled by the working class or a ruler of the workers?
Hughes’ poem ends as a call to action for we the people to reclaim America from “the rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies.” Will America remain in the trope of “Gold, Glory, and God” or become a land of the free?