Langston Hughes wrote the following poem in the 1960s, as a response to Walt Whitman’s poem “I Hear America Singing,” written a century earlier. Hughes poem represents an emotional plea for equality.
I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table When company comes. Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America.
Recently, photographers, many holding jobs paying less than minimum wage, have taken to making inequality, the kind depicted in Hughes’ poem as well as other manifestations of economic disparity, visual. Demonstrating their indebtedness to Hughes, the photographers’ work is displayed in Kansas City, in an exhibit with the same title as Hughes’ poem. Melena Ryzik reports on their efforts in “‘I, Too, Am America’ Shares Snapshots from Workers Living on the Edge.”