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“Let America be America Again”

A high school and college poetry lesson for Langston Hughes's “Let America be America Again.”

Published onMar 01, 2022
“Let America be America Again”

“What is inspiring about Hughes’s work, is that despite the hardship and hopelessness that colored his poetry and prose, he maintained a striking, confident assurance that a brighter future awaits. Typifying that impulse is Hughes’s poem “Let America Be America Again.” In one of the final stanzas, Hughes writes, ‘O, let America be America again - / The land that never has been yet - / And yet must be - the land where every man is free.’” - Langston Hughes: The People's Poet

Carl Van Vechten; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk), 5 August 2010 (UTC). Accessed from Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

Teaching “Let America be America Again”

To start, ensure all students have a copy of the poem (digital or hardcopy) and collectively watch: Let America Be America Again (below). Encourage students to annotate the poem as they hear it read out loud. 

Let America Be America Again

Within groups of 3 students, each group will answer the following questions:

  1. Identify the tone/mood of the poem. What is your evidence?

  2. What key images are in this poem?

  3. What role do dreams play in this poem? How do you know?

  4. How do the images and dreams connect, or not?

  5. What argument is the poem making?

  6. Who is the speaker? Is there more than one — and what might be the impact of this? How do you know?

Encourage groups to practice active, close reading for 15-20 minutes in their groups. To do so, students could:

  • Use highlighters and/or pens to draw attention to specific lines or words

  • Circle or underline images

  • Write down questions that they have

  • Attempt to summarize the poem in a sentence of two

After this group work time, facilitate a full-class discussion where groups share what they discussed.

Throughout the discussion, draw attention to the call for action infused into this poem. What are we as readers to do having read this poem? Who is represented in this poem, and what is the significance of this? Who is not represented, and what are the consequences of this?

In closing, ask students to write a brief reflection as an Exit Ticket in response to the poem and the following question:

Langston Hughes published this poem in 1936. How does this poem still hold true today?

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