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The poem “I, Too, Sing America” was published in 1945, about a decade before the Civil Rights Movement in America started. So the poem seems to forebode the Civil Rights Movement. Nearly a hundred years after the proclamation of Emancipation, African-Americans were regarded as inferior citizens of America and denied equal rights and privileges with the Whites. The poem is a voice of protest against those discriminations and might have provided inspiration for the Civil Rights Movement.

The theme of the poem is an implied protest against the discrimination that American society made between black and white people. The speaker in the poem tells us that he, too, sings America. He is a black American, working as a servant in a White’s house. When visitors come to his master’s house, he is sent to the kitchen to have his ~ meal there. He eats well and grows strong. He hopes that someday he will sit at the table with the white guests. Nobody will dare tell him to go to the kitchen. Rather they will see that he has grown beautiful, and they will be ashamed of their past behavior of not having recognized him as equal to them. The speaker, the “I” in this poem, is not the poet himself, or any other individual. He represents all black Americans of his time, that is the 1950s. Through a simple description of the state of a black slave in a white house, the poet has symbolically placed his protest against the discrimination between the black and the white.

The poem is important because of the fact that it forebodes the Civil Rights Movement which took place in 1955, and because it is an implied protest against the discrimination between the black and the white existing in America in the early 1950s. 

The poem is written in short sentences, in free verse. It is deceptively simple, and simple verse is fitting for the subject matter of the poem: a servant speaks his mind. “I, too, sing America”, -is, for example, a sentence as simple as possible, but is loaded with meaning. It conjures up the whole picture of the state of things in America of the 1950s: the condition of a black servant in a white house represents the condition of all negroes, and an implied protest against the condition. “But I laugh,/ And eat well,/ And grow strong.” These expressions in clauses are as short as possible, but within a few words, it brings before us the whole history of black people’s growing strong, and beautiful through several hundred years. Another remarkable thing is that the last sentence “I, too, am — America” declares the Negro’s claim more emphatically than in the first sentence. He identifies himself with America herself. The sentence is the most forceful, though the briefest, expression of the speaker’s assertion that. his whole being is totally merged in the country, America. The words used are simple as well as the sentences. The words like “kitchen”, “table”, “company”, etc, are all simple, everyday words. But being charged with an extraordinary power of communication. 

The images of the servant, the kitchen, the table, and the company, are effective, like the language. They are homely, everyday objects, but have been invested with unusually powerful connotations. With all the factors taken into consideration, it is a very successful poem. It is a model of brevity and communicative power in poetry.

Critical appreciation of "I, Too, Sing America"


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