Victims of America: Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes

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VICTIMS OF AMERICA: COUNTEE CULLEN AND LANGSTON HUGHES Immediately following the conclusion of World War I, many African Americans traveled north in the hopes of escaping the oppression the south offered. There, many embraced the new opportunities found and many were encouraged to “celebrate their heritage and to become ‘The New Negro,’ a term coined in 1925 by sociologist and critic Alain LeRoy Locke in his influential book of the same name” (Academy of American Poets, 1999). This prominent time in America came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. A time when African Americans began to rediscover their true heritage and tried to be accepted in a predominantly white. “In The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois famously described black Americans as possessing what he called a double consciousness, caught between a self-conception as an American and as a person of African descent. As DuBois put it, “The Negro ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings . . . two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” (McWhorter, 2003). While confusing for many African Americans, the Harlem Renaissance birthed many significant poets, musicians, and writers; two notable individuals, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes, were among them. Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes, through their personal trials and sorrows, become two of the most recognized African American poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Two poems which stand out, Countee Cullen's "Yet Do I Marvel" and Langston Hughes' "I, Too," offer similar themes based upon attributes evident in the 1920s, and offer symbolism of the troubles and difficulties faced by all African Americans at the hands of racial inequality. Having both been continuously plagued with the challenges endured of being African Americans
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