Feminism in Maya Angelou’s’ Poetry

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Maya Angelou once said if you don’t like something, thanthen change it and if you can’t change, then change your attitude(25) and that exactly what she did to her entire life. Maya Angelou grew up and was born in the state of Louis, Missouri. She is  a Daughter of two hard-working parents, named  Bailey Johnson who was the main provider and worked as a doorkeeper and Vivian Johnson who was a nurse, night club habitue. Eventually, her parents were divorced just when she turned three years old.

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 At a young age, her brother Bailey that was eight years at the time,herself and their grandmother were living in a small town called Stamps in Arkansas where she absorbed much religious faith and would have to wear old-fashioned courtesy due to the old traditional African American lifestyle.

 In her early childhood years, Maya Angelou was raised with her brother Bailey during in the racial segregation in the  South by her paternal grandmother. She earned a scholarship to a drama school. While living there she also goes several part-time jobs as a table dancer in a nightclub works in a mechanic shop, and worked in restaurants. She was one of the first women to be a black female cable car conductor.

      One of many struggles she faced was finding her true identity, growing up there were a few obstacles she had to face and they were very tuff, making her the women she is today. Another struggle she faced was being a teen mother. When Maya Angelou was sixteen in the days after WWII, she had given birth to her first son Clyde Johnson in San Francisco. When she was at the age of fourteen, she had decided to drop of out her studies and fell in love. She eventually decided to run away at the age of seventeen  and considered living a different lifestyle causing her to become a single parent becoming homeless with her son Guy and living outside of a parking lot and trying to support herself, and her child by working late shifts as a waitress nonetheless, she never gave up on her dreams and goals. Her and her son, moved  back with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas which she had to escape to go back to San Francisco due to her involvement in illicit activities. After a few years she moved back in with her mother and fell in love with a preacher named Episcopalian and left her son  to be taken care of with  Big Mary who had disappeared with her child but could track them down in California where they were able to  reunite.

          Meanwhile, Dr. Maya Angelou had worked as a writer-producer on the television for one of the best media network called the 20th-century fox 20th. She had written a powerful screenplay for Georgia, Georgia, including many other several scripts on the television including, sister, sister. In early 1998, she also tried to make her first attempt in the filming career and directed with a movie named  Down in Delta. Before becoming one of America’s most admired writers. Throughout, her empowering writings and poems, she had motivated a generation of African Americans woman who had to struggle to overcome prejudice,  discrimination, and, abuse sadly, at the age of seven, she had been  raped by her mother’s boyfriend  and swore to never speak a word again because she believed she caused her rapist  his death. Eventually, Maya Angelou had been retreated into a voluntary silence for about five years or more. When she was brought to stay in stamps to live with her great-grandmother,  Maya Angelou was helped and supported by two very strong independent women, her mother, Mrs. Bertha who made her feel comfortable to speak again.

  Feminism in Maya Angelou’s’ poetry was also important. she was an important woman when it came to her showing hardships among all women by focusing to address issues that were involved with feminism, sexism,and racism. Therefore, she displays feminism in her poems Phenomenal woman and All Women Work. Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou was published in 1978 making history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. Although Angelou writes of her actual experiences growing up and living as a black girl and a black woman in the American South, she also connects her experiences to those of all black women dealing with racism, sexism, and isolation. Her book  sends out an important message to the world about convention and stereotype but mostly to women to have empowerment and be confident in their own female skin and acceptance. Nonetheless, in her poem Woman Work she describes what a single woman does for her family and the society. The woman she is describing is been expected to live a certain lifestyle due to what society expect from her. For example, at a young age being consider a lady when you’re little. How a role of a woman can be confined with one simple word and how woman today are required to have curtain skills. One skill woman need to have was to become a warrior, have a tough mindset, be able to convince herself that her values, choices are very important. Shen then explains the role that man played and how they were in control, man would treat women like an object and as property rather than being treated as their wives or a normal human being.

 Fighting for gender equality in her poem  phenomenal women is a phenomenal example of her poetic identity. She expressed that black women can do anything and also fights for racial equality. Her wise words in her poetry didn’t just come from her heart, they were explaining life, love, and concepts that were very abstract and obscure became clear through her poetry.  Maya Angelou quotes in her book if growing up is painful as the southern black girl and being aware of her displacement can be there rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It’s an unnecessary insult in her poem  I know why the caged bird sings Maya angelou is talking about  how as a child she never lived a normal lifestyle and wrote her daily experience or racial discrimination  and was not treated equally and she knew that she wanted to break all barriers between race.  She expresses that black woman can do anything and also fights for racial equality.

             One strength was Maya Angelou is referring to herself that she is a phenomenal woman and she left a mark for other women to follow. She describing her poem through her confidence the ways she walks, the rhythm of her hips and the way she smiles on line 30-31. In the book, it also mentions that one of Maya Angelou’s secrets is that she is leaving behind for women that will touch their hearts to lead them to be a phenomenal woman. One of her weakness was the tone and the mood of the poem phenomenal men phrases the joy in my feet the sun of my smile also the click of my heel to create a feeling of joy while in the song I was here  in the book the tone of the song it was aspiring. Indeed she wanted to achieve so many things like leaving a mark on the world so that everyone knew what she was fighting for. Threw this journey I’ve learned that Maya uses imagery consistently in her poem to create a physical image of a woman who loves herself and is very self-confident. She also uses imagery to describe her physical features but the irony of this poem is that the American stand of beauty is to have sharp features like having the perfect body or perfect skin tone. Indeed she uses a lot of metaphors through her poems in the book. Nonetheless, she uses repetitions to stress certain phrases to emphasize the main idea of the poem that she is a phenomenal woman.

Just how her poem Caged Bird is an example description of a caged bird that is able to see another bird outside the window but the caged bird is trapped with his clipped wings and his feet are very tired and begins to sings in pain.Then the caged bird wants to be set and dream of flying far away from the world but id trapped in the caged. Also, To Beat The Child Was Bad Enough The poem is about the innocence of a child and how it is taken away when a child is beating leaving them alone and mute because when a child is abused, they lose their sense of speech and are afraid to speak. Maya’s perspective of the poem highlights the tragedy of her childhood when she had been raped by monster also known as her mother’s boyfriend and became mute. While reading the poem the tone of the poem changes to fear because you can see the change of events in the poem’s story.

      Another strengths she had were her accomplishments she had achieved was in 1960. She worked for Martin Luther King as a coordinator and organized  a Christian Leadership Conference for a short period of time. After some time  she left New York and moved to Cairo, Egypt  in 1961 where she met a civil rights activist named Vusumzi Make who was a freedom fighter. He had motivated Maya Angelou to become a journalist and work as the editor for the Arab Observer organization. Her work did not stop there, she went to Ghana  and worked as an editor of the  The african Review and  taught as a  professor at the University of Ghana’s were she learned several different languages . In 1986, she publishes a novel called  All God’s children need traveling shoes were she reveals several obstacles she faced  and began to discover her heritage as an African american woman while she was in Ghana. In the 1964, she came across a black activist named Malcolm X  who was also involved in the civil right movement and lead an organization for the African American Unity community but his organization collapsed after he was assassinated . Leaving Maya angelou to publish her final series of her autobioghy called  A song Flung up to Heaven  were she mentions her role as an influential leader to the Civil Rights movements .

      A few years back Maya Angelou came out with an album titled Caged Bird Songs. This contemporary Hip Hop album came out November 04, 2014 includes songs like: Still I Rise, Africa, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, and ten more other songs. Angelou’s voice does not sound like any other female artist in today’s mainstream music. Angelou’s voice is powerful. She is reciting the lyrics more like spoken word over raw beats. Although she is older Maya Angelou is still rapping, if that’s not inspiring then, I do not know what is. Angelou’s title for her album is Caged Bird Songs, similar to one of her books titled, I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing, (a great piece of literature). The caged bird could symbolize her, not only is this a genuine title, but meaningful to those who know the real meaning of what it means and have actually read the book that connects to the title. The artwork for her album is simple yet, clever.

   Maya Angelou was also know for having empowering human spirits, In her third book Still I Rise tends to use fiction writing techniques. For instance, setting plot, dialogue, characterization and developing different themes. She creates a personal struggle of how an American-American woman are brought to life through there poetic works. She mentions personal journeys of her struggles to overcome injustice and reminds us that we should never stop fighting on gender equality on a daily basis. She intended to grow and develop courage to women who fear to speak up and voice their opinions and beliefs.In the poem she declares that she will not accept racism,allow anyone to have frewer right than anyone in their society. There were alot of people that she worked with that wanted to crush her dreams and what she believed in but that did not stop her even if they wanted to kill her  she  would still fight for the movement of equal equality. Maya Angelou  then write a poem called  Our Grandmothers(32). She mentions a woman who survives a life of a slave, she specifies and shows what slavery did to a particular human being. Being a slave consisted of being treated like property. She also mention how humiliated she had to endure when they would get whip. Women were considered to suffer more than men because they would get double the punishment because they were women and were considered  African American.

     The album has a bird and the color of the bird is golden colored, which can demonstrate Angelou’s heart, Golden hearted. Although she did die, her legacy will continue to live and that has been proven by the success of her new album. This is not her first, she has made another albums. Angelou’s family has helped this album become successful. Especially her grandson. What do the lyrics have that are so meaningful? The album is entirely based on what Dr. Maya Angelou’s poetry would have, especially on black and women empowerment. Maya Angelou quotes, A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.        

Lastly, Maya Angelou was an author, activist, feminist, lecture and woman of color who went through several trials in her life that made her the women she is today. Her impact on the world was meant to go on through generations. Women are important to society, not only do we make babies to keep the human race alive, but we are important too because women have been thought to be less than men and that has to be proven wrong. Glorifying women for having  all the empowerment to surpass many obstacles that all women have undergone needs to be done a lot more often, but in fact our society created a month for all women and its meaning to it is delivering a message across the world letting others know that women will continue to fight for that they believe is right. She considered best known for all seven autobiographies she wrote and her work moved tremendously all over the world through Schools and  Universities.Her work didn’t not stop there she impacted the black culture and inspired the African American culture. Her dream was to motivate and change a generation of women to be courageous.

          Months like March, is significantly important, it’s a month to appreciate women, afterall it is Women’s History (Herstory) Month from March 1st to March 31st.  March 8, is International Women’s Day. It’s a transnational feminist organization, organized a Rally on March 08, 2015 in order to show the power of women. This day has been around since the early 1990’s through the ongoing years anyone who identifies as a woman stands up for their rights and supports women as a whole and recognizes their struggles. Power women Like Maya Angelou are the reason why Events like Woman’s day exist, to glorify woman who suffered and fought for a generation to empower one another and have a voice especially to women who are afraid to voice their opinions  because they are  woman. There’s a lot of women who historically have done so much for our nation, and try to make a difference in today’s life. Having event and organization that are created for women who do not get recognized for their role in this society are changing lives day by day. Therefore, Maya Angelou was a great  historian  whose legacy still lives .


 Work cited page

  1. Angelou,Maya.I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.New York : Random House,1970.Print. MEACHAM, JON.22AUG2017: A racist World,Described by Those Who Knew It https://www.achievement.org/achiever/maya-angelou/
  2. Angelou, M.(1970). I Know why the caged bird sings. New York : Random House
  3. Angelou,M.(2004). The collected auntobiographies of Maya Angelou. New York: Modern Libary Biography. www.mayaangelou.com.Caged Bird Legacy, 1, Jan.2015.Web.10 Apr.2015    
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Feminism in Maya Angelou's' Poetry. (2019, Jun 27). Retrieved October 5, 2022 , from

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