Painting Maya Angelou by Angela Yarber
Author. Performer. Activist. Poet. Actress. Playwright. There are few others whose accomplishments are as prestigious, prolific, or expansive as Maya Angelou’s. I initially encountered her work in a ninth grade literature class. The first of her seven autobiographies was our assigned reading. I voraciously consumed every word of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , my heart filled with grief, my eyes filled with tears, my mind filled with questions. It is no wonder this book is the most acclaimed of all her autobiographies, books of poetry, and essays. As a fourteen year-old, my mind was opened to the power of stories, particularly the stories of those vastly different from oneself, and to the oppression black women like Angelou experienced in the United States. As a native white Southerner, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was my first foray into grappling with the nuances of white privilege.
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