Know Why the Caged Bird Term Paper

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This attempt at banning this book cannot be seen as anything but another example of prejudice and racism, this time against a woman who is attempting to share her life and warn other young girls at the same time.

Probably one of the most eye-opening parts of the book is when Angelou acknowledges that for decades, blacks in the South acquiesced to whites simply to survive, and they taught these tactics to each succeeding generation in an attempt to simply get along. She writes, "Momma intended to teach Bailey and me to use the paths in life that she and her generation and all the Negroes gone before had found, and found to be safe ones. She didn't cotton to the idea that whitefolks could be talked to at all without risking one's life" (Angelou 46). She graphically illustrates life in the South in the 1930s and 40s for blacks and whites, and how it really grew into two very different and non-equal worlds. Blacks existed in their world, and whites existed in theirs, and the whites allowed very little mixing in between. We do not think of life that way today, and yet, it is clear there is still very much prejudice and racism in our country. Many of the barriers have been broken down, but many more still exist, even if they are unspoken or unacknowledged. The whites have still the advantage in this country, even though blacks have made great strides. Books like this continue to illustrate how difficult life has been for blacks in America, and how strong they have been to face adversity and demand their equal rights and freedoms. A reviewer puts it even more eloquently. He writes, "The question of race was everywhere. While I knew or suspected that Whites in the rural South may have had a difficult time viewing Blacks as human beings, it had never occurred to me that Black people might fear that White people were not really the same species as themselves" (Anonymous). That is an interesting point, and one that indicates the immense divide between whites and blacks in the South, and how it colored all aspects of Angelou's early life.

In conclusion, Angelou's autobiography is moving, emotional, funny, and tragic all at the same time. Throughout this look back at her early life, she shows how racism and prejudice colored the world of her youth, and how she managed to rise above them and become one of the world's premiere authors. This book also shows that even though she has managed to become famous and well-known, racism and prejudice still exist today, and they have the ability to color a person's life, take away their dignity and self-respect, and make them question their value and place in society. Ultimately, this book shows that racism and prejudice are truly evil, and must be eradicated for society to become truly equal, fair, and just. Angelou's uncle Willy sums up the vast difference between the races late in the book. He says, "They don't really hate us. They don't know us. How can they hate us? They mostly scared" (Angelou 192). Even understanding this, it is difficult not to cringe when reading this book, at all the inequities blacks have had to face in their struggle to be free and equal.

References

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.

Anonymous. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Freethought-Forum.com. 2005. 27 Feb. 2008. http://www.freethought-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1973

Bloom, Harold, ed. Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998.

Dority, Barbara. "Artistic Repression in America." The Humanist May 1999: 36.

Editors. "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000." American Library Association. 2007. 27 Feb. 2008. http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm

Holmes, Eric. "This Is Week a Good to Point out Nationally Challenged Books." Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) 27 Sept. 2006: 1.

Megna-Wallace, Joanne. Understanding I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings a Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Woodard, Loretta G. "Understanding I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents." The Journal of Negro History 86.2 (2001): 188+.

Annotated Bibliography

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.

This is the primary source for this paper, and it is a book. This source must be reliable, as it is the primary source document for this subject matter, but it is also the primary autobiography of Maya Angelou, and thus, it serves as the most important work of this paper. The source is also reliable because it is clear, even though Angelou may add some fictional details to this work, that she clearly remembers her youth and growth as a time of change, development, and learning, with racial prejudice and repression as a part of her youth.

Anonymous. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Freethought-Forum.com. 2005. 27 Feb. 2008. http://www.freethought-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1973

This electronic source (Web site) contains a forum topic regarding Angelou's book, with several different unique and compelling reactions to the work. This is a reliable source in that it contains people's honest assessments of the book and their reaction to it, and is valuable to the paper because it adds another dimension to literary criticism and reaction to the work.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998.

This print source is a book that contains essays and commentary by critic Harold Bloom and others about Angelou's work. It is extremely relevant because it is scholarly, well thought out, and gives the reader additional insight to the author and her thoughts and aspirations for the book.

Dority, Barbara. "Artistic Repression in America." The Humanist May 1999: 36.

This print journal article is a short look at repression and book banning in America. It is relevant because it gives the reason Angelou's book has been banned or burned in the past.

Editors. "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000." American Library Association. 2007. 27 Feb. 2008. http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm

This Web site from the American Library Association lists the top 100 challenged books in America between 1990 and 2000, including Angelou's book. It is relevant because it adds to the information on banning and challenging her book for "sexual content."

Holmes, Eric. "This Is Week a Good to Point out Nationally Challenged Books." Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) 27 Sept. 2006: 1.

This newspaper article in print adds to the information about Angelou's book being banned in many areas. It is relevant because it shows that her book is still being challenged today.

Megna-Wallace, Joanne. Understanding I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings a Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

This book in print is a student casebook to the work, including essays, references, and historical documents that are relevant to the work. It is relevant because it includes literary criticism and historical backup.

Woodard, Loretta G. "Understanding I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents." The Journal of Negro History 86.2 (2001): 188+.

This journal article in print is…[continue]

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