I, Too Poem by Langston Hughes Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


I, Too is a poem written by the famous African-American poet Langston Hughes. The poem was first published in Hughes’ first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues in 1926. This poem, along with Hughes’ other works, paved the way to define the Harlem Renaissance, an era of newfound cultural identity for African Americans in the U.S.A. through art. This poem refers to the widespread racial oppression that was prevalent in America even after the abolishment of slavery by Abraham Lincoln. Hughes provides a commentary on this and speaks about the African American identity being an equal part of the nation. 

About the Author 

Born on February 1, 1901, in Joplin, Missouri. James Mercer Langston Hughes was an African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. Hughes is best known as a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance and was the earliest innovator of the literary form, jazz poetry. Hughes’ writing reflects the African American experience, addressing themes of identity, racism, and the search for equality. His work was a significant part of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement that celebrated African American culture and sought to challenge racial stereotypes through literature, music, and visual arts. Some of Hughes’ most famous works include poems like The Negro Speaks of Rivers, I, Too, and The Weary Blues. He also wrote novels, essays, and plays, contributing to various literary genres. Hughes used his art as a means of social commentary and activism, advocating for civil rights and highlighting the struggles of the African American community.


There are eighteen lines in the poem which are divided into five stanzas. The poem is written in a conversational tone intended to carry a strong message. 

Lines 1- 7

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.


The poem starts with the speaker declaring that they, as African American, also celebrate and contribute to the idea of the American identity. The speaker goes on to identify themselves as the “darker brother” referring to their dark skin complexion and their African American identity. Owing to this, the speaker is always segregated and sent to the kitchen by probably the white house owners when the company arrives. But despite being excluded from social situations on account of their skin colour, the speaker expresses resilience and remarks that they laugh, eat well and grow strong. 


The first line of the poem is a direct reference to Walt Whitman’s famous poem I Hear American Singing where Whitman describes all kinds of American identities that collectively make up the song of America. The speaker uses the personal pronoun, “I” to talk about their subjective experience with racial discrimination and their perseverance in its face. The use of the word “too” after “I” is significant. It shows how normally, people like the speaker are excluded and segregated from the larger American picture. Thus, here the speaker attempts to reclaim their voice and their right back in the American landscape. 

Lines 8-14


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”



Here, the speaker refers to a future and looks forward to a time when they will no longer be relegated to the kitchen but will have a place at the table among the other people. At that point in the future, where the speaker will not be excluded, nobody will dare to order the speaker to go back to the kitchen. 


The speaker looks forward to a time when people like them have a place in American society and consequently, at the table. The image of being at the table signifies equality and inclusion, and the speaker confidently asserts that no one will dare to send them to the kitchen anymore.

Lines 15-18


They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.


The speaker here anticipates a change among the people. The speaker looks forward to a time when others will recognize the speaker’s beauty, both literal and metaphorical, and feel ashamed for marginalising and discriminating against all African Americans. Lastly, the speaker concludes the poem by asserting that they also are America. 


Here, the speaker introduces the idea that the beauty of the African American identity has the potential to challenge and confront the prejudiced views of those who had marginalised people like the speaker. The speaker further believes that the perpetrators will recognize the injustice they practised against the African Americans on witnessing their true beauty. The concluding line is a powerful assertion of the speaker’s identity and belonging, claiming their rightful place as an integral part of America.