The poem "I, Too" by Langston Hughes is an excellent representation of a theme that runs throughout Hughes' writing, a theme of dual identity. This theme is an effective means of illustrating the situation of black men and women in America, who cannot help but struggle with dualistic identities: belonging and not belonging, being both wanted and not wanted. It is also a reflection of Hughes' own life. It is Modernist work, in its irregular structure and meter and reliance on alliteration over rhyme. It is not the only Modernist piece that Hughes produced, either. In using such an approach in his poetry, Hughes is making a larger comment about the nature of race, power, and American culture. Hughes makes use of dualistic imagery in describing racial relations in America in order to make some powerful and important points about racial issues in America.
Understanding this poem, and its place in the larger context of Hughes' work, requires an understanding of Hughes' life. He was born in Joplin, Missouri. His father left their family to flee to Cuba and Mexico, in an attempt to escape the racism he met with in America. Hughes had a complicated relationship with him. While it was partly due to the abandonment it was also due to his father's complex issues with his own race. As a child, he moved all over the Midwest, mostly raised by his grandmother. That grandmother told him stories which inspired him with a sense of heroism and a desire to help others of his race. Struggling with racism from childhood on, the issue would become a defining one in Hughes' life. So would his love of poetry, which he discovered at the same time. After school he went to Mexico to live with his father, and then returned to America to enroll in college. Leaving after just a year because of racial prejudice, he spent a few years abroad, developing his theories about capitalism, socialism, communism, and social justice.