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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou) Essay

In “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Maya Angelou shows us a dark side of American history and how racism and discrimination can affect people, but she also shows us the power of the human spirit in our ability to overcome negativity and succeed in spite of great difficulties in life. One of the earliest examples of race relations in the book symbolizes the major separation of opportunity for black and white children. On the second page of the book, Marguerite explains how she wished that she would “wake up in a white world, with blond hair, blue eyes, and she would shudder from the nightmare of being black.” Thus, from the beginning of the book, race relations were one of the major themes. The way that Marguerite was thinking at this point, was the same way that other young black children were thinking during this time. They were so use to the white children being praised, they felt that if they looked that way, they would be praised and have the finer things in life as well.

According to Valérie Baisné (1994), “Angelou’s autobiographies in the midst of literature, were written during and about the American Civil Rights movement. The American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968) refers to the reform movements in the United States aimed at abolishing racial discrimination against African Lupton states that Caged Bird “captures the vulgarity of white Southern attitudes toward African Americans”. Angelou demonstrates, through her involvement with the black community of Stamps, her developing understanding of the rules for surviving in a racist society, something she is not able to articulate for many years, when she finally writes the book. Angelou also vividly presents racist characters “so real one can feel their presence”.”

Maya Angelou’s early experiences with racism are so powerful, that in 1982, during an interview with Bill Moyers in Stamps, she is unable to cross some railroad tracks into the white part of town. Bill Moyers was an American Journalist and public commentator. Critic Pierre A. Walker (1995), characterizes Angelou’s book as political; he stresses that the “unity of her autobiographies serves to underscore one of Angelou’s central themes: the injustice of racism and how to fight it.”

Walker (1995) also states that Angelou’s biographies’, beginning with Caged Bird, consists of “a sequence of lessons about resisting racist oppression”. This sequence leads Angelou, as the protagonist, from “helpless rage and indignation to forms of subtle resistance, and finally to outright and active protest” throughout all six of her autobiographies. Maya Angelou used all that she has been through to write her stories. Her childhood was not really a child hood because she had to accept what had happened to her and move on which caused her to grow up faster than normal. The events that took place in her life made her the strong woman that she is today.

She decided not to let her situation define her, instead, she decided to define her situation. Far too many times there are individuals who allow things that happen to them tear them down and they never seem to recover, but not Maya Angelou. She was determined. During the time that this book was written, there were a lot of things going on in the country. One major event was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was a time in American History where Blacks were protesting and fighting to be able to have the same rights as a those of non-blacks.

Angelou, Maya (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House. Random House Inc is the world’s largest English-language general trade book publisher Baisnée, Valérie (1994). Gendered resistance: The autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou, Janet Frame and Marguerite Duras. Amsterdam Walker, Pierre A. “Racial protest, identity, words and form in Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’.” College Literature 22.3 (1995): 91+. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Aug. 2012.

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