What Is “Democracy” by Langston Hughes About?

The poem “Democracy” by Langston Hughes is about the importance of attaining and fighting for democracy. The narrator emphasizes that it is something men and women have a right to, and should feel empowered to achieve. By living in the U.S., democracy is a freedom that the narrator is entitled to, and should not have to wait for.

“Democracy” was published in 1949. It addressed issues faced by African Americans in the United States, namely that the 15th Amendment had not come to fruition for all Americans. At one time, not all Americans could vote due to a poll tax, required literacy tests and a stipulation in the amendment that only African American men could vote. The right to vote is a freedom granted in a democracy, and a freedom that the poem concerns itself with in its discussion of democracy.

Langston Hughes’ poem encouraged people not to take the issue of democracy lightly. He did not directly mention race, but the majority of his work was concerned with life for African Americans in the United States. Hughes was often criticized by his contemporaries for portraying life in such a negative fashion. However, his writing was politicized, and as such, he sought to produce poems with a message.