"I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou: Poem Analysis

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The Jim Crow era was a dreadful time for blacks living in the United States. It began in 1861 and ended in 1965. During that era, there were “Jim Crow laws” which were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation. This made living conditions dreadful for blacks and gave them difficulties to even be happy of all ages. Unfortunately for Maya Angelou, she was born during this era and faced many challenging hardships throughout her life. Even with all the challenges she faced, she was able to find not only happiness but also peace. The racism and discrimination Maya Angelou faces in her autobiography, “I know why a caged bird sings”, shows that anybody can have the willpower to make a change. She shows that no matter how much pain a person goes through there is always a way to handle it.

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One of the biggest hardships Maya faces in her life is racism. Unfortunately for her, she experiences it her entire life. Although racism is not as common as it was back in her day there is still an extremely similar thing going on all over the world with kids. That “thing” is bullying. In the United States, bullying is increasing and becoming more of a problem each day. It is a very serious problem that destroys people mentally and could lead to suicide. Maya gets confronted with racism and segregation at a very early age and even wishes that she “looked differently”  so she could be treated the same. As Maya becomes older she is faced with even more racism such as when she is told by her school director that she can “only exceed in sports”  not academics or when the dentist refuses to treat Maya.

 The amount and stress and pressure these things can put on a person are severe. So severe that some people give up. However, Maya has hope. Joe Louis’s world championship boxing match is so crucial to the black community. It shows how one should never give up and always have hope. This shows that all the discrimination blacks have faced made them not want to be what they want to be but rather what they have to be. Maya has the same passion that Joe Louis had. Surely he had his hardships and fought through them to accomplish his dream and the same goes for Maya. With each problem she faces she deals with it and becomes stronger. For example when she applied to be a race car driver and they kept denying her request until 3 weeks later. She never stopped trying or just decided she would not get the job. She had hope and believed in herself. Bullying these days is very hard for kids to handle correctly. Maya can show that her life was not great either, but she still was able to maintain hope and a positive mindset which a lot of kids these days do not have. 

By staying strong and having hope she shows in “I know why a caged bird sings” how from the bottom one can make it to the top. One can find peace and happiness and spread it to others as well. 

Works cited

  1. Angelou, M. (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House.
  2. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). Routledge.
  3. Dancy, T. E. (2001). The Jim Crow era: A historical encyclopedia of the American mosaic. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  4. Davis, A. Y. (1981). Women, race & class. Vintage Books.
  5. González, J. (2006). Maya Angelou: The Iconic Self and Iconic Writing. MELUS, 31(2), 35-56.
  6. Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.
  7. Morrison, T. (1987). Beloved. Alfred A. Knopf.
  8. Ransby, B. (2003). Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. University of North Carolina Press.
  9. Rose, T. (2008). The End of Innocence: The 1960s and the Making of American Dissent. Yale University Press.
  10. Tyson, T. (2011). The Blood of Emmett Till. Simon & Schuster.

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