Maya Angelou

(3143 words)
  • Seretha Williams (Georgia Regents University)

In 1969, Maya Angelou published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of six volumes of autobiography. The title, taken from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”, captures the complexities of Angelou’s lived experiences of struggle and triumph and articulates the blues aesthetic and humanism that informed her literary career. In “Sympathy”, Dunbar’s speaker declares, “It is not a carol of joy or glee, /But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, /But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –” (lines 18-20). Angelou, a poet like Dunbar, lived within the boundaries of Jim Crow oppression – of race, class, and gender – and wrote poems that conveyed the dignity of the everyday people whose l…

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Williams, Seretha. "Maya Angelou". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 January 2015
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. African American Poetry