Cancelled: I, Too, Sing America: How Poets Help Us Think About Race


Speaker(s): Tsitsi Jaji, Associate Professor of English

Tsitsi Jaji, Associate Professor of English and African & African American Studies

Amanda Gorman is one of only five poets invited to inaugurate our national rite of passage, welcoming a new president in verse. Like Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander, the voice of a Black woman resonates with our aspirations for renewal and unity. But why? We begin thinking through this question with Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too, Sing America.” Hughes suggests the antidote to structural racism is to “see how beautiful” Black poetry is. His call rings true, especially true in musical versions of poems. Take “Compensation,” a poem Paul Laurence Dunbar penned at the turn of the 20th century. North Carolina native Nina Simone (1959) used music to amplify this song of America. We listen together with new urgency in the era of Black Lives Matter and as Duke hires clusters of new faculty in Asian American and Latinx studies.

Registration required:


Duke Trinity College Arts & Science


Duke English

Photo of Professor Tsitsi Jaji