Valerie Vande Panne

Race & Editorial Freedom

I recently submitted an article to an editor of a publication I frequently contribute to. I included a portion of the Langston Hughes poem, Let America Be America Again.


The editor told me he questioned the appropriateness of a white woman quoting Hughes in this instance (for use on the topic of the drug war, as it relates to freedom).


My response: Hughes was multi-racial, as many in America blessedly are, and: How do you know I am 100% white?


Of course, my editor graciously apologized for the gaffe. Still, perhaps as editorial oversight–(news rooms are like colanders these days, with much substance and flavor lost through the holes)–the portion of the poem was not restored, in print or online.


So I post the segment here, because Hughes is an important part of our literary and nation’s history. And because much of his work, including this poem, continues to be relevant today:


O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


Read the entire poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes here.

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