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'America, I Sing You Back': A poem for the holiday

November 24, 2021

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is a poet, performer, teacher and literary activist. She currently teaches at the University of California Riverside.


Allison Adelle Hedge Coke considers her poem “America, I Sing You Back” to be an extension of two famous poems about the identity of America: Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” and Langston Hughes’ “I, Too”. Written as a response to those poems, Coke’s poem considers America from the perspective of a woman and indigenous person.

Listen to the poem in the link below and read along on the NewsHour site here.

Five Facts

  • Who wrote this poem and why did she do so, according to the linked article?
  • What are some of the ways Coke celebrates the American experience or characterizes what it means to be American?
  • What are some of the ways Coke critiques the American experience?
  • What are some of the words and images that suggest the subjective perspective of a woman and indigenous person in the poem?
  • How does Coke characterize the past, present and future of the American experience in this poem?

Focus Questions

Why do you think Coke wrote this poem, and what do you think she was trying to say about the relationship between the indigenous people of the Americas and the United States?

Media literacy: What would you like more information about to better understand Coke’s meaning and intentions?

For More

For more of Coke’s work, see this.

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Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.