"I know why the Caged Bird Sings" Reflection

Essay by islandboarda February 2007

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The world today with its racism, corruption, and discrimination, is lucky to have such an inspirational author as Maya Angelou. In her works of poetry, drama and memoir, she describes the imperfections and perversions of humanity, men, women, black, and white with an unrelenting and sometimes jarring candor. In her first autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", she describes her own experiences as a Black African American girl growing up in the deep south of Stamps, Arkansas.

James Baldwin illustrates the motivation he got from reading this book as follows:

"Black, bitter and beautiful, she speaks of our survival... This testimony from a black sister marks the beginning of a new error in the minds and hearts of all black men and women...I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity.

I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood when the people in books were more real than the people one saw everyday, had I found myself so moved...Her portrait is a biblical study of life in the midst of death."

Maya Angelou went through many impediments throughout her life including the separation of her parents at age three, the rape and molestation by her mother's live-in boyfriend, and the prejudices of her community.

Maya was just three years old when her parents got divorced. Her and her brother Bailey, who was four years old, were sent on a train with a porter to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. Even though the porter abandons the children at Arizona, they made it safely to Stamps. Annie Henderson, whom the children...