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Democracy, by Langston Hughes

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Zach Nixon

on 12 April 2016

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Transcript of Democracy, by Langston Hughes

Democracy, by Langston Hughes. (Published 1949)
Democracy, Langston Hughes
Hughes' Family Life
Langston had a rather depressing childhood. When both of his parents divorced when he was young, Langston lived with his Grandmother through most of hos early childhood. After starting highschool however, he moved in with his mother and her new husband.
Title (again!)
Since we have carefully analyzed the poem and returned to look at the title, we now know that the specific reasons for the title being "Democracy" are because Hughes was writing about the inequality during the time period (1949), and because in his opinion the U.S. was not a democracy due to the constant racial stereotyping throughout his life up until this point.
James Mercer Langston Hughes:
Born on February 1st, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes attended both Columbia and Lincoln University, one where he studied Engineering and the latter where he earned a "Bachelor of Arts" degree.
Professional Career: Poetry Collection
Langston distinguished himself as a phenomenal writer, boasting a collection of poetry almost too voluminous (vocab!) to quantify. His more popular works include I Too Sing America, Dream Deferred, Quiet Girl, Problems, and the poem I'm covering; Democracy!
Professional Career: Awards
Because of Langston's numerous accounts of talented submitted poetry, he was accounted numerous honorable rewards. A minor few of these include the "Anisfield-Wolf Book Award", a "Guggenheim Fellowship" which allowed him to travel to Spain and Russia, and an award from the NAACP called the "Spingarn Medal" for distinguished achievements as an African American. He also received numerous doctorates, and schools and other institutions were named after him following his passing.
Hughes' Family Upbringing
After completing high school, Langston moved to his father's home in Mexico where racial prejudice wasn't as extreme as the United States. Unfortunately, him and his father did not have a great relationship, resulting in Langston only being able to attend college at Columbia University by being funded by his father if Hughes were to study for an engineering degree, as appose to studying what he loved most; writing. One of the reasons why him and his father did not have the greatest relationship was due to Langston's father not wanting to help Hughes learn doing the things that he loved most.
Legacy of Langston Hughes
Langston died on May 22nd, 1967, at the age of 65 due to complications with prostate cancer. Although suffering financially throughout his life, Hughes' writing of countless poems, short stories, and plays became very famous during and following his life.
Prezi made and presented by yours truly. (Zachary J. Nixon)
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.
Analysis via TiPSLASTT
We will now be analyzing Democracy through the following...

Because of the title, before even reading the poem one can already infer that Democracy will most likely involve politics and the writer's views personal on Democracy. Since Langston Hughes is an American poet, also taking part in the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s, we can assume that this poem will primarily focus on how Democracy IS NOT a Democracy in the U.S. at the time period due to racial stereotyping.
Paraphrasing, Stanzas 1-2
The first stanza is very simple to paraphrase. Langston is saying that in the U.S., if racism does not cease to exist, there will never be Democracy. In my opinion this is my favorite stanza because Langston is completely right about what he is saying. The 2nd stanza is (in Langston's words) that this racial prejudice needs to end, because he is a human being and has just as much right to "own the land" as any white man.
Paraphrasing, Stanzas 3-4
The third stanza is also simple to paraphrase. The author emphasizes that he wants equality now because he "can't live on tomorrows bread", not because he's starving, but because he cannot deal with the racism anymore. The forth stanza, although short, makes the least amount of sense. "Planted in a great need", referring to freedom, means that everyone wants freedom in their life, and everybody deserves it.
Paraphrasing the 5th and final Stanza
The final stanza is a turning (and ending) point for the poem. When he says "I live here, too. I want freedom just as you." it is revealed that the audience is most likely the white population, and how Langston feels it is unfair both ethnically and legally to not have the same amount of freedom as the audience.
Speaker of Democracy
Langston definitely uses first person when writing this poem. The reason this is important and relevant is because the author uses his own point of view to share his beliefs of why he and his people deserve freedom, and why he wishes to have a full democracy of equal individuals throughout the United States.
Theme 1: Democracy
In my opinion, there are two major themes throughout this poem, Democracy and Racial Stereotyping. Democracy is a theme for this poem because he asks for his right and freedom as an American citizen regardless of his color, Hughes wants equal treatment both legally and ethically throughout his own country.
Language in Democracy
Some figurative devices in Democracy include simile (fifth stanza), where he says "I want freedom just as you.", loads of imagery including feeling and hearing, satire, and first person point-of-view. Langston uses these devices to further develop his idea of an ideal "democracy", where everybody is equal.
Attitude (Tone) in Democracy
The poem, in my opinion, has a very serious tone to it. Since democracy is a serious topic to discuss, he uses serious tone to deliver that message in his poem. He emphasizes his point of wanting a democracy on a very serious note and wants the reader to get the message sharply and clearly.
Shifts (Progression) in Democracy
Hughes' writing tends to either make dramatic changes in attitude, or little to no change at all. In my opinion, Democracy does not have as many shifts throughout the poem. One such shift though, is in the second half of the third stanza, where he says "Tomorrow is another day. I do not need my freedom when I'm dead. I cannot live on tomorrow's bread". He uses time to emphasize the need for equality in the poem, which is as soon as possible.
Theme 2: Racial Stereotyping
The black population is isolated by the "dominant" white population during this time period, so society assumes black as the second class people throughout America. In no way is this "democracy", so that is why I beleive this is another major theme throughout this poem.
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