Langston Hughes

Poem "Expendable" by African American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. Hughes is known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, and was an eloquent and influential African-American poet, essayist, playwright, storyteller, and activist for peace and social justice, 1902-1967. His poetry appears in the film "Voicesin Wartime."

 

Let America Be America Again

  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!

 

 


Expendable



We will take you and kill you,
Expendable.

We will fill you full of lead,
Expendable.
And when you’re dead
In the nice cold ground,
We’ll put your name
Above your head –

If your head
Can be found.