Maya Angelou

Seretha Williams (Georgia Regents University)
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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 lives, she believed, warranted celebration. As Carol…

3143 words

Citation: Williams, Seretha. "Maya Angelou". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 January 2015 [, accessed 05 March 2024.]

117 Maya Angelou 1 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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