The Issue Of Racial Bigotry In Maya Angelou’s Poetry

Maya Angelou had a very rough life from her childhood years up to her adult years. Specifically, she was always felt like she did not fit in with the rest of her peers. Angelou lived in the south most of her life. Though she lived in the south and was discriminated for the color of her skin, she embraced through her struggles. She wrote about her struggles in her poems and stories. Once she had her son, she was inspired to stand up for her culture and beliefs of all living man is equal. Maya created a black power movement to show how she stood by her word. Maya Angelou’s three well-known poems, “Caged Bird”, “Gather Together In My Name', and “Singin’ and Swingin’” symbolize and talk about racial bigotry by using literary devices and by showing her hardships throughout life.

Life as a black teenager during the depression and the “olden days” was very difficult for Maya. She went through many difficult times including being discriminated for the color of her skin. According to Carol E. Neubauer, “In Caged Bird, Angelou recounts many explosive incidents of racial discrimination she experienced as a child.” As a young teen before her son was born, she was always being called names and being made fun of. Angelou was very hurt by these rude and horrible comments from the other kids on her block or at her school. In Neubauer’s words, “For Angelou, as for many black American writers, the south has become a powerfully evocative metaphor for the history of racial bigotry and social inequality, for brutal inhumanity and finial future.” The south was known as the racist south. This is because they excluded the blacks from the whites. If you were a white person living in the south you stood out. For Angelou, she took this as a challenge. She tried to speak out through her writing. By writing about this, this was the way she expressed her feelings. Neubauer reports, “... a time of severe economic depression and intense racial bigotry in the south, she spent nearly all of her time either in school, at the daily meetings of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, or at her grandmother's general merchandise store.” 

Maya tried to distract herself from all of the bullyings she went through with her town and the people that lived in it, and the racial slurs. By doing this she went to church, worked at her grandma's store, or was at school. Since Maya had such a tough childhood, she resembles this in her Caged Bird poem.

Angelou emphasizes her black power movement through her Caged Bird poem. Maya stood up for what she believed into the people who discriminated her for the color of her skin. As stated in Walkers article, “Caged Bird was written in the late sixties, at the height of the black power movement, and at a time that was still debating the value of Martin Luther King’s beliefs in nonviolent protest, it is no surprise that this act of protest is the climactic moment of resistance to white oppression in the book.” 

Angelou used this black power movement to stand up for what she believed in. She explained to everyone that all man and humankind should be equal. No white nor blacks should have a hierarchy. Maya stood by this very strongly and took it very personally. Walker adds, “She suffers from an inferiority complex, an identity crisis, and the humiliation of racist insults.” The harsh and humiliating words that were said by the people of Maya’s town and community were diminishing to her and her self esteem. But she conquered through everything like a strong woman. From humiliation to being raped, to being discriminated for the color of her skin, she worked through it all to be a very successful woman.

Caged Bird takes you through a sneak peek of Angelou's life growing up in many hardships. In Maya’s town drugs and many bad activities were surrounding her growing up. These tragic activities shaped her to become the strong and independent woman she was to raise her son. Hagen declares, “...her introduction to drugs and illicit activities, and the basics of economic survival are the thrust of Gather Together in My Name.” By being surrounded by all of these tragic activities, it helped Maya understand the basics of survival in life. She went through this to better her life for her son. Lastly stated in an article by Lyman B. Hagen, “Caged Bird takes Angelou through high school graduation and the birth of her son.”  After her son was born Maya had a new outlook on life. She had a more positive attitude and a stronger sense of empowerment. Being a black woman back in Angelou's days was very tough. She told all of her stories in her writing.

Maya Angelou was a very powerful American and writer. She wrote all of her experiences through her poems and stories. From being raped at a young age by her mother's boyfriend to being discouraged by her society, and being discriminated against. She wrote many many poems and stories to tell her life troubles to the world. That is how she became such a famous writer and poet. She never gave up on her dreams of being an American poet even when life hit her with the worst troubles. Maya had a rough life growing up in a society where people judged her based on her color and race. She never let that bring her down or discourage her from following her dreams.  

16 December 2021
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