when was caged bird published

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of seven autobiographical works by American writer Maya Angelou, published in 1969. The book chronicles her life from age 3 through age 16, recounting an unsettled and sometimes traumatic childhood that included rape and racism. It became one of the most widely read and taught books written by an African American woman.

The prologue describes an event in which Angelou, as a small child, is reciting a poem in church. Feeling ugly because she imagined in vain that the dress her grandmother made her would be so pretty that she would be seen as a beautiful white child, she forgets the poem and then wets her pants as she flees the church in embarrassment.

The story begins in 1931, as Maya, age three, and her elder brother, Bailey, are sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, whom they call Momma, after their parents’ breakup. Momma owns the only store in the African American part of town. The children settle into life with Momma, helping her at the store and learning to read and do arithmetic. One night a former sheriff warns Momma to hide her disabled son because white men are planning revenge after a Black man “messed with” a white woman. Later a group of young white girls ridicule Momma while she stands, dignified and unmoving, outside the store. When the Great Depression hits, Momma keeps the store from going under by allowing customers to trade their rations for goods. One Christmas, Maya and Bailey receive gifts from their parents, whom they assumed to be dead. A year later their father, Daddy Bailey, arrives in a fancy car, and he takes Maya and Bailey to St. Louis to live with their mother, the beautiful Vivian.

At first they stay with Vivian’s mother and their uncles. At school, Maya and her brother are more advanced than the other students, and they are moved up a grade. Later the children move in with Vivian and her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman begins molesting eight-year-old Maya, threatening to kill Bailey if she tells anyone. One day he rapes her, and she conceals her stained underwear under the mattress. When changing the linens, Bailey and Vivian find the garment and realize what happened. During Mr. Freeman’s trial, Maya lies when asked whether he touched her before the rape. Later Mr. Freeman is found dead, apparently having been beaten to death. Feeling guilty, Maya stops speaking to anyone except Bailey. After a few months of her silence, Maya and Bailey are sent back to Momma.

Maya is relieved to be back in Stamps, but she continues her silence. Eventually, the sophisticated Mrs. Bertha Flowers takes Maya under her wing, telling her that it is important to speak and giving her books to read aloud, and she begins talking again. At the age of 10, Maya is sent to work for a white woman, who calls her Mary rather than her name (Marguerite). Offended, Maya breaks some china in order to get fired. Later, Bailey is upset when he sees a movie starring Kay Francis because he thinks the actress looks just like Vivian, and he makes an unsuccessful attempt to return to his mother. Maya later makes her first friend, Louise Kendricks, a girl from school. During this time, Maya continues to encounter racism. When she develops cavities, Momma takes her to the white dentist who borrowed money from Momma during the Depression, but he refuses to treat the child, and they have to take a bus to the closest Black dentist. Bailey later sees the decaying corpse of a Black man pulled out of a pond, and a white man makes him help some Black men carry the body into the jail. After the incident, Momma decides to take Maya and Bailey back to their mother.

Maya and Bailey move with their mother to Oakland, California. There Maya attends a school in which she is one of only three Black students. When she is 14 years old, she is awarded a scholarship to the California Labor School, where she studies drama and dance. Vivian’s new husband, Daddy Clidell, becomes a genuine father figure to Maya. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content.

Maya spends a summer in southern California with Daddy Bailey and his girlfriend, Dolores. Dolores and Maya do not get along. One day, Daddy Bailey takes Maya with him on a shopping trip to Mexico. Maya enjoys the excursion until she loses track of her father, who eventually returns to their car too drunk to drive. Although she has never driven before, Maya manages to drive them to the border, where she hits another car. At this point, Daddy Bailey wakes up, pacifies the other driver, and then drives the rest of the way home. Upon their return, Daddy Bailey and Dolores argue, and he walks out. Maya tries to console Dolores, but Dolores insults Vivian, leading Maya to slap her. Dolores then cuts Maya, who decides to run away. After spending a night in a junkyard, she awakens to find a community of Black, white, and Mexican runaways living there. She stays for a month and then returns to Vivian.

In the meantime, Bailey has become friends with “a group of slick street boys” and begun dating a white prostitute. At the age of 16 he leaves home, to his sister’s great sorrow. Maya browbeats the transit company into hiring her as the first female African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco. However, after spending one semester at the job, she returns to school. She later reads the lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall, and, misunderstanding what lesbianism is, she begins to fear that she might be a lesbian. Though Vivian tries to reassure her, she is not assuaged, and she determines to have sex with a boy. The encounter is unpleasant, and it results in Maya’s becoming pregnant. On Bailey’s advice, she keeps the news to herself and returns to school. After graduating from high school, Maya tells Vivian and Daddy Clidell, who are fully supportive. After Guy is born, Vivian assures Maya that she will be a good mother.

The book’s title came from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Against the backdrop of racial tensions in the South, Angelou confronted the traumatic events of her childhood and explored the evolution of her strong identity as an African American woman. Her individual and cultural feelings of displacement were mediated through her passion for literature, which proved both healing and empowering.

After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Angelou was inspired by a meeting with writer James Baldwin and cartoonist Jules Feiffer to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a way of dealing with the death of her friend and to draw attention to her own personal struggles with racism. The book was immediately popular and remained on best-seller lists for two years. Angelou cowrote the screenplay for the 1979 television movie version of the story, which starred Esther Rolle as Momma and Diahann Carroll as Vivian.

The title of the book is derived from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.” In the midst of racial unrest in the South, Angelou addressed the horrific experiences from her early years and looked at how her strong identity as an African American woman developed. Her love of books served as a healing and empowering medium for her feelings of cultural and personal displacement.

At first they stay with Vivian’s mother and their uncles. Maya and her brother have been promoted to a higher grade at school because they outperform the other pupils. Subsequently, the kids move in with Vivian and Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman starts abusing Maya, age eight, and threatens to kill Bailey if she tells anyone. She hides her soiled underwear beneath the mattress after he rapes her one day. Bailey and Vivian discover the garment while changing the linens and discover what transpired. During Mr. Maya lies during Freeman’s trial when it is asked if he touched her prior to the rape. Later Mr. Freeman is found dead, apparently having been beaten to death. Feeling guilty, Maya stops speaking to anyone except Bailey. Maya and Bailey are returned to Mama after she remains silent for a few months.

After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. After meeting with author James Baldwin and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Maya Angelou was motivated to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a way to deal with her friend’s passing and to bring attention to her own experiences with racism. The book gained popularity right away and spent two years on best-seller lists. The 1979 television film adaptation of the tale, starring Diahann Carroll as Vivian and Esther Rolle as Momma, was written by Angelou.

Bailey has started dating a white prostitute and made friends with “a group of slick street boys” in the interim. To the great sorrow of his sister, he leaves home at the age of sixteen. Maya browbeats the transit agency to get hired, becoming San Francisco’s first female African American streetcar conductor. But after working there for a semester, she goes back to school. Later, after reading Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (1928), she starts to worry that she might be a lesbian because she doesn’t know what lesbianism is. Despite Vivian’s attempts to comfort her, she remains unconvinced and decides to engage in sexual activity with a boy. Maya becomes pregnant as a result of the unpleasant encounter. She follows Bailey’s advice, keeping the news to herself and going back to school. Maya tells Daddy Clidell and Vivian after graduating from high school, and they are very supportive. Vivian tells Maya that she will make a wonderful mother once Guy is born.

The first of American author Maya Angelou’s seven autobiographical books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was released in 1969. The book tells the story of her life from the age of three to sixteen, describing a turbulent and occasionally traumatic upbringing that included racism and rape. It rose to prominence as one of the most read and taught books by an African American woman.

Themes editMain article:

–Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings[51]

Maya, who has been called “a symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America”[42], transforms throughout Caged Bird from an inferiority complex-ridden victim of racism to a self-aware person who confronts racism with dignity and a strong sense of her own identity. The “formation of female cultural identity” is woven into the story of the book, according to feminist scholar Maria Lauret, who also presents Maya as “a role model for Black women.” [52] Academic Liliane Arensberg refers to this presentation as an Angelous “identity theme” and identifies it as a central theme in Angelous story. The unsettling nature of Maya’s life in Caged Bird implies that she views herself as constantly evolving, dying, and reborn, with all of its implications. [53] African-American literary scholar Dolly McPherson concurs, saying that Angelou skillfully presents the Biblical themes of death, regeneration, and rebirth using Christian mythology and theology. [54].

As Lauret points out, Angelou and other female writers reimagined how to write about women’s lives and identities in a society dominated by men by using autobiography in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a result, Angelou was among the first Black autobiographers to present, in Cudjoe’s words, “a powerful and authentic signification of [African-American] womanhood in her quest for understanding and love rather than for bitterness and despair.” Before this point, Black women were not realistically portrayed in African-American fiction or autobiographies. [55] Lauret links the autobiographies of Angelous, which she refers to as “fictions of subjectivity” and “feminist first-person narratives,” to fictional first-person narratives written in the same era, like Marilyn French’s The Womens Room and Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. Angelou uses the narrator as the protagonist and relies on “the illusion of presence in their mode of signification,” just like French and Lessing do in their books. [56].

Because she is a displaced girl, knowing that she is displaced makes her pain worse. She is “the forgotten child” who has to accept “the unimaginable reality” of being abandoned and unwanted;[54] she lives in a hostile world where people reject her just because she is a Black girl and define beauty in terms of whiteness. Maya internalizes the rejection she has received and comes to believe that she is “absolutely ugly.” [57] According to McPherson, the dislocation of the children at the start of Caged Bird should be taken into consideration when interpreting the idea of family, or what she refers to as “kinship concerns,” in the Angelous books. [58] Maya and Bailey experienced psychological rejection when their parents sent them away, which led to a search for love, acceptance, and self-worth. [59].

Throughout her books, Angelou assumes a variety of personas and roles to highlight the connections between personal history and oppression. For instance, Angelou illustrates the “racist habit”[52] of renaming African Americans in Caged Bird, as evidenced by her white employer’s insistence on referring to her as “Mary.” What Angelou refers to as the “hellish horror of being called out of [one’s] name” is the employers renaming. [60] Academic Debra Walker King describes it as an attack on Mayas’ race and self-worth and a racist insult. [61] Maya feels more inadequate as a result of the renaming, which also diminishes her identity, individuality, and distinctiveness. Maya knows she’s being insulted, so she rebels by smashing Mrs. Cullinans preferred meal, but she feels validated when she departs her employer’s house and Mrs. Cullinan finally gets her name right. [62][63] Maya’s trip to Mexico with her father, where she has to drive a car for the first time, is another event in the book that confirms her identity. Unlike what happened to her in Stamps, Maya is now “in control of her fate.” [64] This event, along with the one that happens right after it—her brief stint of homelessness following a fight with her father’s girlfriend—are crucial to Maya’s development. These two experiences validate Maya’s value and teach her how to make decisions for herself. [64].

According to academic Mary Burgher, African-American mothers are no longer stereotyped as “breeder[s] and matriarch[s],” but rather as having “a creative and personally fulfilling role,” thanks to the work of female Black autobiographers like Maya Angelou. [65] According to Lupton, the mother/child motif that appears in the poetry of Jessie Fauset, a poet of the Harlem Renaissance, had an impact on the plot and character development of Angelous. [66] Maya considers herself an orphan for the first five years of her life and takes solace in the knowledge that her mother has passed away. Maya exhibits ambivalence and “repressed violent aggression” in response to her mother, whom she holds responsible for her desertion. For instance, Maya and her brother destroy the first Christmas presents that their mother sent them [67]. These intense emotions aren’t fully resolved until the very end of the book, when Maya becomes a mother and her mother fulfills her longing to be a nurturing figure. [68] Maya’s two primary mothers also undergo changes as she transitions from childhood to adulthood and becomes a mother herself: Vivian becomes a more involved role model, while Momma loses her effectiveness. [69].

Title edit

Angelou looked to Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American poet whose writings she had long admired, for inspiration when choosing a title. The title was suggested by jazz vocalist and civil rights activist Abbey Lincoln. According to Lyman B. Hagen, the book’s title entices readers while simultaneously serving as a reminder that it is possible to both lose control over one’s life and have their freedom taken away. Shakespeare and Dunbar, according to Angelou, helped shape her “writing ambition.” The third stanza of Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” serves as the source of the book’s title:[note 1]


When was the poem Caged Bird published?

“Caged Bird” was published in Maya Angelou’s 1983 poetry collection Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?

Why did Maya Angelou write Caged Bird?

After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Angelou was inspired by a meeting with writer James Baldwin and cartoonist Jules Feiffer to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a way of dealing with the death of her friend and to draw attention to her own personal struggles with racism.

Why was Caged Bird banned?

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the most challenged and most banned books in American history. It often ranks among the top ten challenged books due to its depiction of the molestation of an eight-year-old, the abuse of said child, and an instance of teen pregnancy.

What is the message of the poem Caged Bird?

The poem conveys a message of hope and of the power of self-expression – the caged bird’s tune of freedom is heard “on the distant hill,” so his tune is powerful enough to be heard in the distance. His singing leads others to hear and acknowledge his sorrow and longing for freedom. so he opens his throat to sing.