18 thoughts on “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 2”

  1. Hello. Thank you for explaining the title, it was illuminating. I very much want to finish reading this but first, I need to tackle Sula, which is a mountain of a book before me.

    Back to Caged Bird. You touched on so many points in your lecture, that these ten chapters are the pre-cursor to the main drama, of her rape as a nine year old; up until this point, I was not aware, and was instead, lulled into the lyrical wonder of her life, as she saw it, as a young girl, the game of the life she and Bailey created for themselves, particularly in the store, and oh the sadness of Momma when they left.

    Another thing in your lecture that struck me is the church, which continues to be a staple of Black life, not simply a staple but anchor, the weekly service, the holy-ness of the Pastor, those sermons which are oft-quoted by the congregation, Sunday Service, going to church in your Sunday Best, the devotion and adherence to faith, the reverence for the spiritual, for the community, it is still so much a part of the fabric of daily black life, and listening to you speak, it’s a wonderful insight to the roots of it.

    1. Thank you! yes, I do believe that church and liberation politics have been synonymous for the most part in Black communities, which has continued to this day. I suggest you check out Jeremiah Wright for instance, who was influential in shaping Obama’s worldview, and during the campaign became a FOX news target to undermine Obama.

  2. It seems that Maya and Bailey are like best friends because they are the only constant in each other’s lives as they go through familial displacement. This makes each other the only people they can rely on and I would be interested to know more from Bailey’s point of view because as he was the older one, Maya would have relied on him more. Thank you for pointing out the theme of pride in their resilience, I had not noticed it recurring. Since the African American community has gone through so much hardship, it makes sense that they would have more of a collective pride as a community compared to other racial groups in the U.S.
    It is interesting that you relate church as a political institution as much as a religious one for the black community. This can also explain the evolution of different Christian churches to today because African Americans are more likely to be Christian than any other racial demographic in America and most are tied to what have been historically black churches (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/).

  3. I definitely agree that Momma is well-respected in the community and I find that to truly materialize when she’s asked to court under “Mrs” which is a title reserved for white people. In this era, segregation was engrained in the minds of the black community and often translated as internalized feelings of self-doubt and hatred that they felt toward themselves. Thus, to attribute Momma with a “white” title is the equivalent of placing her at a higher level than other black individuals in the community. I think that she is so well-respected because she’s able to keep her business afloat and is more of what she would call a realist. Through being a realist, she doesn’t turn her back on the black community as she still offers her store as a place of protection which is certainly a dangerous ordeal. That being said, Momma also realizes her place in the community as a pillar and thus, acts as if she needs to set the example. This is especially occurrent with her grandchildren as well, as Momma insists on their going to church every week and regards their behavior as a direct reflection of how they were raised by her.

    1. Thank you! very true, also evidence that Washingon was up to something when he said the best way for Black folks to guarantee their freedom was economic prosperity and ownership of their businesses.

  4. What interested me in chapter 7 is once, a black man accused of assaulting a white woman took refuge in Momma’s Store. He eventually left, only to be apprehended later. In court, he testified that he had stayed with Mrs. Henderson. The judge subpoenaed Mrs. Henderson only to realize to his surprise that the accused had referred to a black woman as “Mrs.” This unusual title, usually reserved for whites, indicates Momma’s high status in her community.

    1. Thank you! and it is reminiscent of Washington idea of owning businesses and prosperity bringing the respect of white people. at least on the ground it seems to have worked.

  5. I personally loved the character of Momma and the role that she played in these chapters. She is a tough and cunning woman who tries to raise her grandkids in the best way she can. An important theme that we saw in the previous readings and now reappears in this novel is religion. Faith in this black community like many other ones can be considered a key component since it gives a sense of security and hope to its inhabitants. Hence, Momma tries to convey this relationship to her grandkids, hoping that in the church community they will find the same value that she did. I also love the way Mrs. Henderson ran the store, her frugal behavior (especially during the depression) sets a great example for Maya and Bailey, she sort of teaches them to always live within their means. At last what I loved about Momma is the way that she deals with the racial issues. She proves to be a true lady and a superior human being by not falling into the misery of these kids that she is being mocked by.
    I perceived Mrs. Henderson approach to racism in the novel from a Booker T. Washington standpoint, where she accepted her society for what it is. I do not recall her complaining about discrimination, but instead she just carries on with her values that she conveys to Maya and Bailey.

    Professor, I was researching autobiographical books on slavery similar to Booker T. Washington’s or Frederick Dougals’ and I run into this one “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” any thoughts or suggestions?

    1. Thank you! it’s a great angle to read Momma’s approach to the kids as a form of training, both economically and also in the way they should navigate a hostile environment.
      I am familiar with Equiano autobiography but I haven’t read it, I am sure it will be a rewarding read. I suggest you take a look at 12 years as a slave also. you probably have seen the movie but the book is on a whole other level.

  6. It is unfortunate to hear that Maya will encounter some unfortunate and cruel events later in the book, and it’s certainly heartbreaking to imagine Maya going through so much at her age. I’m very grateful for the life I’m living after reading this story and others.

  7. If Maya has gone through the road of self-development and can finally realize herself, Momma must have made great contributions. Racial discrimination and patriarchal society make Maya fall into the crisis of identity and lose herself on the way of growing up. Momma is a self-reliant and intelligent figure, who has won the respect of the whole community with her unique personality charm. It’s not hard to understand that such a dignified, intelligent, and positive image of black women who strive to provide nourishment for Maya’s growth will have a positive impact on Maya’s growth. Maya’s growth is full of ups and downs, but she is lucky to have Momma.

  8. The sound cage bird trying tosing imply Maya will break out the cage, she has much power inside her body.She was raped by her mom’s boyfriend by the year 9, which was shameful andhelpless. But that sort of torture wasn’t beat her. Her relationship with mommahas motivated her at a special period. Momma is a reality for Maya that as one ofthe black community, we can also be respected by others(whites), which gave Mayaa huge incentive for her young heart. Also, become the driving force for hercontinuous struggle for civil rights writing and anti-racial discrimination.

  9. To me, the saddest part was when Angelou and her brother received gifts from their parents one Christmas because it simply reminded them that even though their parents are out there, they could’t live all together as a family and be happy. Things were already bad enough as they were, and Angelou was trying to get over the fact that she will probably never get to live with her parents and trying to move on, and then the gifts showed up, reminding her once again that she has a family that she can’t live. It’s as if she was an orphans, but with parents.

    1. This was big for me too. Presents mean more to kids than what the actual present is for. It’s a reminder that they are loved. No matter how big or small. They didn’t normally get presents before so receiving them signaled some kind of change and they were sure if it was good or bad. What gets me is when the father returns and acts as if everything is all good. He can just play father for the time being and then drop them off in St. Louis. That kind of disconnect from your own parents teaches you about the people in the world. I’m glad thay Maya and Bailey had each other, but even Bailey is trying to find his own manhood and I’m interested to see how their relationship is strained or brought closer together after St. Louis.

  10. I agreed with you when you mentioned how the store Angelou worked at was the center of the community. I started to pick that up as I was reading, and it was a good way to show her interactions with the people of the community as they would stop by and how it brought a range of people too, all differing and it continues to help us as readers to learn about them through her eyes.

  11. As mentioned – this is a literary masterpiece able to effortlessly transport the reader into Maya’s time in Stamps. I found myself more impressed with the small details of the time – I had to google so much of the slang and terms used back then, such as quadroon and octoroon, words that are not so incredibly common, at least in my sphere of life. I wondered about the history of these words deeply, as it adds to my idea that much of the divisiveness of blacks seems inherited; the two terms I used weren’t exactly racist but they are very specific words to describe a very specific amount of black in someone.

    – I also had a good sense for how exactly “well-off” Mrs. Henderson and Uncle Willie were; the mention of him being one of the few negroes with ready to wear suits and his $20 shoes were astonishing details included to drive home who exactly these people were.

    – The contrast between Stamps and St. Louis felt almost like traveling through time as well. It seems religion keeps the sin away, at least out of the daylight, a bit better than it does in St. Louis. For me, Stamps felt almost directly post slavery while STL felt like a few decades back..

  12. Thank you for explaining the title. I got the jist when we started reading it, but your explanation gives a much better analysis and highlights somethings that I didn’t initially identify. I really agree with you when you said that the poem which the title is from is an “interesting mix of sadness, sorrow, and hope.” You get the same mix when reading Maya Angelou’s work. I think it’s incredibly difficult to choose a story for something as complex and this one, yet she did such a fantastic job. She needed something that sparked curiosity, illuded to struggle, but also didn’t seem too heavy to the point people would not want to read it. Of course it is a very heavy book because she speaks of a difficult truth. However, if you want people to hear you, there needs to be moments of relief – hills and valleys between hope and hopelessness – so that each moment hits fresh. Unfortunately, people tune out to anything that goes on for longer than a few minutes if it’s all the same emotion, even if it’s something they should pay attention to. It’s not enough for the information to be important, it also needs to be easy to take in. Maya makes sure you listen to her. That is why she is still iconic.

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