A Far Smaller Historical Event

January 20, 2009

4c_1_bthumbnail200px-langstonhughe_251 In all of today’s excitement, I almost forgot that today is the first anniversary of this Web site. In my first post, there was reflection on the significance of this date in our national life. Little could I have imagined then what would happen on this date in 2009. The national mood is so much different from what it was then.

As someone whose view of American history is very much centered on the Virginia origins of our best founding traditions, I nevertheless today cherish the kind of testimony that could hardly have occurred to Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, George Mason, and the Lees, but which I’m convinced they would have appreciated by using the same wisdom that produced their far-seeing founding documents. It comes from a man between their time and ours, who was both of African descent and politically and sexually suspect — but was a poet of authentically American voice:

I, Too, Sing America

by Langston Hughes

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.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

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