In Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, many
major themes are implemented to describe the harsh reality of growing-up in the south
and being black. She uses the universal themes of racism, cruelty, education,
abandonment, and many others to show the reader what she has persevered over
throughout her life to become the strong, independent woman that she is today. One such
theme in her autobiography, prevalent throughout the duration of the book, is that of
racism. Three instances in her life where she must fight against racism are at her eighth-
grade graduation, at her first employment with a white woman, and with Bailey Jr.,
Maya's brother, after he witnesses a lynching. The theme of racism is employed to show
the reader what it was like to grow-up black in a segregated society.
An example of how Maya Angelou is affected by the ugliness of racism is at her
eighth-grade graduation from Lafayette County Training School.
In Stamps, the black
community revered the graduation as a great event. It is so great that there will be a
white speaker. Maya sits through the beginning of the graduation ceremony with a sense
of doom. She feels that something is going to ruin the joyous occasion for her and the
graduating class. The white speaker, Mr. Donleavy, gives his oration on the
improvements the children of Stamps had to look forward to. He spoke of how the white
children at the Central School would get new science equipment and a well known artist
to teach them art. These improvements were made graciously possible because of him.
He assures the graduating class that they were not to be left out. He tells them that he has
"pointed out to people of a very high level that one of...