It is not entirely race, he supposes, that keep people apart. In the poetry of Langston Hughes, rampant greed and cold-hearted capitalism stand out as the major obstacles to tolerance and brotherly love.
An early poem, "I, Too," expresses the inequality that Hughes witnessed in his own homeland, but tempers it with an inherent optimism. He expresses segregation with the phrase, "They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes," but the voice in this poem accepts this low starting point as a place from which the speaker can rise. This acceptance is seen in the following lines, "I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong." He seems to be saying that he will make the most of an unfair situation, that although it is clearly wrong for him to be sent to the kitchen, if he keeps his spirits up and gathers his strength, he will gain recognition as worthy to sit at the table. Then, he surmises, he will be so strong that "Nobody'll dare Say to me, 'Eat in the kitchen." But he does not want to depend on intimidation. He hopes instead that white Americans will spontaneously embrace blacks once they open their eyes, lose their prejudices, and "see how beautiful I am." Essentially, the opening and closing lines, along with the title, express Hughes's hope that equality for black people in America will follow an easy, natural, and logical course because "I, too, am America." Here, he says that we are all Americans, and therefore the color of a person's skin should not affect their place in society.
Later work, written during the Depression, takes a darker tone, and begins to express sympathy for armed violence and revolutionary ideas. In "The Same," Hughes laments the treatment of black people everywhere: "On the docks at Sierra Leone, In the cotton fields of Alabama, In the diamond mines of Kimberly, On the coffee hills of Haiti." Gone is the hope for simple, peaceful love seen in "I, Too." Now he cannot be content to eat in the kitchen, because to be black anywhere is to be "Exploited, beaten, and robbed." The suffering of black people increases "the wealth of the explorers." He draws a literal line from blood that is stolen from men like him to cash that none of them will ever see and he suggests that it is "Better that my blood Runs into the deep channels of Revolution." He has been impressed by Marxist philosophy. In this poem, the terror comes from "the greed that does not care" and Hughes identifies with "all the struggling workers in the world." He does not speak only of Americans or black people, but of "the Red Armies of the International Proletariat Their faces black, white, olive, yellow, brown."
The very tongue-in-cheek "Come to the Waldorf-Astoria" expresses the same sort of universal discontent and financial divide. Taking up the voice of the exuberant adman, he highlights the gap between rich and poor in America with a scathing social criticism of the newly opened luxury hotel. While thousands of people are homeless and starving at the height of the depression, a twenty-eight million dollar hotel has opened in New York, and