At the Table

  • At the Table
  • Lucius Beebe Memorial Library
  • Kathleen says: "I, Too, Sing America" by Langston Hughes is such a simple declaration of the writer's love of country, a love that is not reciprocated by his white fellow citizens. Identifying himself as "the darker brother," he emphasizes his rightful place in the family, denied for the moment but not forever. Although relegated to the kitchen, he does not wallow, but instead laughs, eats well, grows strong. When he emerges and no one dares send him to the kitchen, he celebrates himself and anticipates the shame that his fellow citizens will feel when they see how beautiful he is. The poem was written almost one hundred years ago, and it is indeed shameful that so many of Hughes's people, and now others whose skin is perhaps not so dark but who are deemed unworthy are still denied a place at the table.

    The photo from a Merrimack College International Programs dinner celebrating students of color, who speak multiple languages, and who come from other places exemplifies the dream embedded in the Hughes poem. The students in the photo represent the future of this country, and we ignore them at our own peril. This is what America looks like; we need to embrace it.

    Both the poem and the photograph represent the diversity that has been a hallmark of this country from its inception. But as the poem indicates, the white power structure has worked throughout our history to eliminate that diversity, to keep those "darker brothers," darker sisters, those who don't speak English, those who come from places other than Western Europe, those who do not conform to cis- binary gender identity, in the kitchen rather than at the table. My American Creed embraces diversity, celebrates difference, questions white privilege, and works to dismantle institutional racism/sexism, and other forms of discrimination. The photograph captures that Creed by presenting a diverse group of students, our future, at the table rather than hiding in the kitchen. And their smiles fill me with hope that Hughes's dream is not dead.
  • 1998
  • Kathleen Shine Cain


Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, “At the Table,” Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Wakefield, Mass., accessed May 8, 2021,


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