I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

2413 words 10 pages
Kelly Kolodziej
Mrs. Dobos
English 10 Honors, Period 7
14 February 2011
Insecurity of Gaining Pride in Oneself Have you ever considered how a young, insecure, black girl growing up in the South during the 1930s dealt with physical and verbal discrimination directed toward her African American race? This may not seem like a big deal at first, but consider that this was a time before the African American Civil Rights Movement; a time during which racism and segregation were a fact of life. It was a daily struggle for blacks to live in a society that clearly and openly did not accept them as equal people. They were frequently ridiculed and disrespected just because of the color of their skin. Since they were evidently treated
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Her desire to be white along with her horrific personal childhood experiences demonstrate how Maya, at several points in the novel, is not in any way happy or proud with being black. As the novel progresses and Maya grows older, she experienced many mixed feelings about her race. During her eighth grade graduation she exhibits two very different opinions about her race. After she hears Mr. Edward Donleavy’s speech, stating that blacks could not succeed in life as well as whites, she says, “It was awful to be a Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense” (Angelou 153). This shows her unhappiness with being a young black female. This is because Maya feels as though there is nothing she can do to defend the people of her own race. Towards the end of the graduation, she had a change of heart and began to feel a sense of pride after the Negro national anthem is sung. “I was no longer simply a member of the proud graduating class of 1940; I was a proud member of the wonderful, beautiful Negro race,” (Angelou 156) Maya recounts. This quotation demonstrates two different kinds of emotions and, thus, reveals her uncertainty about her feelings toward her race. At this point in the novel, Maya is progressing from feelings of regret to feelings of pride in her race. This shows the

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