Maya Angelou Quotes
''During those years in Stamps, I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare. He was my first white love.... it was Shakespeare who said, "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." It was a state of mind with which I found myself most familiar. I pacified myself about his whiteness by saying that after all he had been dead so long it couldn't matter to anyone any more.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 2 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s. Shakespeare had, of course, "been dead" for more than three centuries: since 1616. "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" is the first line of sonnet no. 29.
''This might be the end of the world. If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than apes. True that we were stupid and ugly and lazy and dirty and, unlucky and worst of all, that God Himself hated us and ordained us to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, forever and ever, world without end.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 19 (1970). Remembering the significance to African American Southerners of a world heavyweight championship bout fought by African American boxer Joe Louis (1914-1981), the defending champion, against Primo Carnera (1906-1967), a white Italian challenger and former heavyweight champion. Angelou's grandmother ran a store in the small, strictly segregated, brutally racist town of Stamps, Arkansas. Her family and neighbors crowded the store to listen to the fight on radio. As it turned out, Louis won this and every one of his other twenty-four title defenses until his first retirement in 1949.
''The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 34 (1969).
''All of childhood's unanswered questions must finally be passed back to the town and answered there. Heroes and bogey men, values and dislikes, are first encountered and labeled in that early environment. In later years they change faces, places and maybe races, tactics, intensities and goals, but beneath those penetrable masks they wear forever the stocking-capped faces of childhood.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 4 (1969). Said of one's hometown.
''I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, vol. 1, ch. 18 (1969).
''Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. interview in Black Scholar (Jan.-Feb. 1977). Defining work.
''There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Interview in Black Scholar (New York, January-February 1977).
''While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to man.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). "Involvement in Black and White," interview, Oregonian (Portland, February 17, 1971). Angelou lived and worked in Ghana and Egypt, 1962-1966.
''I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. originally published in Girl About Town (Oct. 13, 1986). Kicking Ass (interview), Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989).
''The sadness of the women's movement is that they don't allow the necessity of love. See, I don't personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.''Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). "Listening to Maya Angelou," California Living (May 14, 1975).
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Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? ...
They Went Home
They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.
They said my house was licking clean,
no word I spoke was ever mean,
I had an air of mystery,
But... They went home.