Democracy, Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis

"Democracy" by Langston Hughes is a poignant and assertive poem that addresses the struggles and aspirations of African Americans for true equality and freedom. The poem criticizes the empty promises and delays of democracy, highlighting the urgency of immediate change and the demand for equal rights.

Democracy by Langston Hughes

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.


"Democracy" speaks to the urgent desire for freedom and equality among African Americans. The poem rejects the idea of delaying change and emphasizes the immediate need for equal rights. It asserts that democracy should not be compromised by fear or partiality, and demands recognition of African Americans' rightful place in society.

Critical Analysis

The poem "Democracy" is a strong indictment of the slow progress and empty promises of democracy when it comes to racial equality. The speaker's resolute declaration that they have the same right to stand and own the land as anyone else asserts their demand for equal treatment. The poem criticizes the complacency of those who advocate waiting for change, emphasizing the importance of fighting for freedom now rather than accepting the status quo.

Themes of the Poem

  • Equality and Freedom: The poem addresses the theme of racial equality and freedom, highlighting the urgency and necessity of these rights.
  • Power of Action: The poem advocates for taking action and demanding rights rather than waiting for change to happen passively.
  • Rejection of Compromise: The poem rejects the idea of compromising one's rights and freedoms due to fear or convenience.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Rhetorical Devices: The poem employs rhetorical devices such as repetition and emphatic statements to reinforce its message.
  • Direct Address: The poem directly addresses the reader, inviting them to consider the urgency of the speaker's demands.


  • Determination: The poem conveys a strong sense of determination and conviction in the speaker's demand for equality and freedom.
  • Frustration: The poem expresses frustration with the slow progress and lack of immediate change in the pursuit of democracy.


  • Powerful Language: The poem uses powerful and assertive language to convey the speaker's resolve and demand for equal rights.
  • Metaphor: The metaphor of "freedom" as a "strong seed planted in a great need" symbolizes the potential for change and growth.

Sound Devices

  • Repetition: The repetition of phrases like "Democracy will not come" emphasizes the poem's central message and adds a rhythmic quality.
  • Emphasis: The poem uses emphasis to highlight key ideas and create a sense of urgency in the reader.

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