In Maya Angelou’s first autobiographical
piece, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,
Maya and her family encounter many
different social issues for being an African
American family living in the small town of
Summary on Context
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an
autobiography on the early stages of Maya Angelou’s
life. It discusses all the hardships and troubles Maya
encountered with her family. They lived in a society
where blacks meant nothing and were treated unfairly.
Living in the southern town of Stamps, Arkansas,
Maya dealt with it all. She was an insecure girl who has
been through racial and social issues most of her
childhood. This autobiography clearly depicts the many
struggles Maya and her family were faced with and got
Some of the social and racial issues Maya and her
family faced were :
• Maya and Bailey being sent away from their parents
at an early age.
• Being a black girl in the south already played as a
factor on how society viewed Maya, but after being
raped, Maya was looked down upon even more.
• Continuous moving never allowed Maya and Bailey to
make any friends other than each other.
Social Issue Description
Following Angelou’s rape, she became antisocial for
years. She wouldn’t say a word to anybody but her
brother Bailey. This was because after her court
case regarding the incident, her rapist, Mr. Freeman
was murdered, and she felt that it was her words that
killed him and she didn’t want to kill any innocent
people so she stopped talking for 6 years.
Racial Issue Description
Being an African American family in the south,
Angelou and her family faced a lot of racial issues.
They lived in a small segregated town of Stamps,
Arkansas where everything was separate amongst
whites and blacks. They had separate
neighborhoods, phone booths, water fountains,
restrooms, cemeteries and even different Bibles in
which people swear upon in court.
In a recent review from The Guardian News, reviewer
Anita Sethi, mentions that the autobiography “explores
the struggle to become free from the shackles of
racism…”. I completely agree with Sethi on this, Angelou
not only grasps the readers with detailed experiences of
her life, but she also is able to prove a point with it and
teach the audience a moral. The autobiography depicts
Angelou’s growth not only as a young girl, but as a
woman and how she deals the issues of inequality and
hate thrown at her.
Maya ends up running away from her father, and
this gives her a sense of independence and freedom.
It allowed her to open up in the real world and
experience different things, even if they weren’t all
that great. I believe the point of Angelou sharing
her life story with the world was to prove that no
matter how hard life gets, the best is yet to come.
• Gross, Robert A. "Newsweek's Original Review of Maya Angelou's 'I Know Why the Caged Bird
Sings'" Newsweek. Newsweek, 28 May 2014. Web. 13 July 2014.
• Joanne Megna-Wallace. The Greenwood Press ""Literature in Context"" SeriesWestport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1998. p-13. COPYRIGHT 1998 Joanne Megna-Wallace
• "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Top Ten Quotes." Novelguide. Novelguide, n.d. Web. 13
• Maya Angelou (1 of 5). Prod. Armstrong Williams. Perf. Armstrong Williams and Maya
Angelou. YouTube. YouTube, 2 Sept. 2008. Web. 13 July 2014.
• Sethi, Anita. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – review.” Rev. of I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The Guardian 17 August 2013. Print