One of my favorite poems is “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes. It deeply expresses the mixed feelings many of us Americans bear toward our country. On this important day, the anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, I think the poem is worth printing here:
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 that 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.”
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,
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, the 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!
from Mama Snail October 2, 2006
“Leaving DC today, had the best time here…great museums–all free + 7 days a week…a room of Gauguins, Degas was fantastic, Sargents + Whistlers, + wow…best of all, they have an International Spy Museum! Spent half of yesterday there–heaven. Painted some, got drenched on Friday at the Lincoln Memorial…Went to the National Archives yesterday + saw The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence + The Constitution, all those forgotten documents. Testimony of John Lewis. Fantastic!”
Accordion book of miniature Washington D.C. postcards.
Set of postcards of Paul Revere’s house, 19 North Square, Boston, Massachusetts. The first card’s caption reads:
“Paul Revere owned this house in North Square from 1770 to 1800. He lived here during his active involvement in the American Revolution. The house, built in 1680, is the only wooden structure surviving from 17th century Boston. It was 90 years old when Revere moved here with his family.”
The second card, of what we might call a dining room, informs:
“The Hall reflects the late 17th-century lifestyle of the house’s first owner, wealthy Boston merchant Robert Howard. The heavy furniture and the dark, rich colors, as well as the use of an Oriental rug as a table covering, are faithful to the fashion of the day.”
The card of the kitchen says:
“This room, located at the rear of the house, was converted into a kitchen several years after the house was built, replacing the original basement kitchen (c. 1680). The small fireplace, typical of 18th-century kitchens, was more efficient for cooking and heating.”
Finally, the “best chamber” is described this way:
“The best chamber served as the master bedroom and as a parlor for entertaining. The room, furnished to reflect the latter part of the 18th century, contains several Revere family pieces: the bow-front dresser, easy chair and pair of black Windsor chairs.”
The Paul Revere Bell, which is encased in the courtyard of his old house (above). The postcard’s caption explains:
“In 1804, this bell was cast at the foundry of Paul Revere and Son for the East Parish Church, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Revere cast his first bell in 1792 for his own church, and cast his last bell in 1811, when he ended an active partnership in his family firm.”
Postcards from the detailed, comedic American mid-century Kodachrome slideshows of one of my heroes, Charles Phoenix (upper right). http://www.charlesphoenix.com/
[insert deity/idol of choice] bless Americana!