I, too, sing America

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Compare/Contrast Essay:

Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance

“I, too, sing America,” Langston Hughes confidently declares in one of his poems published during the Harlem Renaissance, a movement in the 1920s in which African American culture flowered and flourished. Hughes and some of his contemporaries published poems that deal powerfully with the issue of racism, but they used different poetic strategies to get their messages across.

Your assignment is to write an essay of at least two pages in which you compare and contrast how TWO of the following Harlem Renaissance poems speak out against racism:

  • “I, Too” by Langston Hughes (handout)

  • “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes (handout)

  • “Harlem” by Langston Hughes (p. 987)

  • “Tableau” by Countee Cullen (p. 972)

  • “Incident” by Countee Cullen (p. 973)

Discuss your two poems of choice using either the block method or the point-by-point method of organization. Your essay must include at least two direct quotes from each poem.

Although this is specifically a compare-contrast essay, this falls under the larger umbrella of “literary analysis.” Remember the structure for a formal literary analysis essay: Have an introductory paragraph that leads into your thesis statement, at least three paragraphs of supporting explanation, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes and states the significance of your ideas.
Some other requirements:

  • Use MLA format.

  • Develop a creative title (not “Compare-Contrast Essay”).

  • Use formal language: no personal pronouns, no contractions, no slang, no filler language (“just” “really” “very” etc.).

  • Put quotation marks around poem titles.

  • Refer to the poet by his full name the first time he is mentioned (“Langston Hughes”). Each time after that, use only the poet’s last name (“Hughes”).


  • Pre-writing due _________________________________

  • First draft due __________________________________

  • Final draft due __________________________________

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