I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes)


Hello, friends! As you know, February is Black History Month, so in honor of that, we will be reading a book every Friday that celebrates black heritage and culture, as well as black authors and artists. Today’s book is I, Too, Am America, a retelling of a poem by Langston Hughes with a story told through art by Bryan Collier.

Using the text of Hughes’s classic poem, Collier uses his art to tell a story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Hughes’s words describe black Americans as a member of the American family, but one who is treated with scorn and shame. Yet despite this treatment, he will “eat well,/ And grow strong,” text that is juxtaposed with images of the porter releasing discarded magazines and newspapers from the back of the train, spreading knowledge to other black people as he travels. The art moves seamlessly from past to present, and in the face of a young black boy on a subway train with his mother, peering through the stripes of an American flag at what comes next, the future.

This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires. The length is perfect for baby bookworms: there is limited yet impactful text, and JJ was so enamored of the art that she spent a solid twenty minutes staring at the pages after our initial read-through. It’s a fabulous book to share with little ones, and discuss afterwards, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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