The socio-political conditions of America

Mofizur Rahman

The socio-political conditions of America

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Discuss the socio-political conditions of America as the background to Langston Hughes' writing poetry.

Answer:  Political and social conditions of a country are intimately related. They may be considered as the two faces of the same coin. But it so happens that some of the decisions taken in the political arena in the form of law are not followed actually in the society. In America also such things happened. America declared independence from Britain on 4 July 1776. Since then America was engaged in reconstruction of its socio-economic conditions, but the system of slavery of the black people under the white persisted throughout centuries.

Abraham Lincoln, after a tough Civil War with the South (Southern states of America) on the issue of slavery, made his emancipation Proclamation in 1863, about a hundred years since the independence of America. The Proclamation freed the black slaves of America, and put them on equal footing with the white citizens. But that was only in the written law. Actually, slavery continued and the black people were denied their social and political rights.

Then the Harlem Renaissance or New Negro Movement took place in the 1920s, in New York's black ghetto of Harlem. It demanded equal treatment of the black people of America with the white, and depicted in powerful literature the contemporary condition's of the Negroes and their treatment by the white people. Its leading figures were Langston Hughes, Locke, Johnson, Mckay, and many others.

This literary movement coincided with the great creative and commercial growth of jazz and a concurrent growth of the visual art. It altered the character of much African American literature. Dialect works and conventional imitations of white writers were replaced with sophisticated explorations of black life and culture. We get a fair picture of black life and culture. We get a fair picture of such writings even in the few poems of Langston Hughes selected for our syllabus.

In remembrance of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s Langston Hughes wrote the poem "Harlem" in 1951 when America was still racially segregated. African Americans were burdened with the legacy of slavery which essentially rendered them second-class citizens in the eyes of law. It may be mentioned here that in the case of Brown Vs Board of Education the Supreme Court declared in 1954 that establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional. L. Hughes' poem enhanced the changes that were bubbling up during that time.

Nearly a hundred years after the Proclamation of Emancipation African Americans were still regarded as inferior citizens of America and were denied equal rights and privileges with the white people. "I, too, Sing America" is a voice of protest against those discriminations, and it might have provided inspiration for the Civil Rights Movement in America. The poem is a description of the  condition of a black American who is working as a servant in a white man's house. He is treated as a sub-human being. When visitors come he is sent to kitchen to have his meal there. But he is very optimistic about his future position he hopes that some day he will sit at the table with the white guests.

In many other poems of Weary Blues and Selected Poems L. Hughes gives a fair picture of the socio-political conditions of his time in America.

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