This to Maya, at that period of time

This critical book analysis is based on thebook I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This book analysis beginswith the description of the time period, setting and the premise of the book.Then, it moves on the contents of the book which can be related to the classreading, films and lecture. The main themes include, racism which can berelated to the narrative of Frederick Douglass and the Scottsboro Boys’ trial.The next theme is segregation which is related to Plessy vs Ferguson andRedlining. Finally, there is the theme of white supremacy which is related tothe story of Jack Trice and the film Malcolm X.

The analysis then moves intothe lessons learnt about the African American history.The story ofMaya Angelou begins from her toddler ages in 1930’s until the 1950’s where Mayagrew up during the periods of the Great Depression. Maya depicts that the blackcommunity did not suffer as much when the Great Depression because they werevery much used to poverty. However, the white people however suffered a greatdeal and when the depression peaked everyone experienced reduced wages whichaffected them badly. According to Maya, at that period of time she onlyremembers consuming powdered milk and eggs which by comparison was a lot morethan some people could afford at the time. Segregation was a system in placewhere the black people and white people lived on separate parts of townships,the extent of which can be understood by how black children did not believewhite people to be real until very much later on in their lives. In the early1940’s, World War 2 had just started and black people could now build homes andbusinesses due to opportunities left by those who went to war and when the warwas over the Great Migration began, the black community began moving to the northernand western states to fill in the void created by the incarceration of theAsian community.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

There are several settings in which this narrative took place.Firstly, there was Stamps, Arkansas. This is the town Maya grew up in and shewas raised by her grandmother whom she dearly called Momma. Momma’s store wasin the heart of the black community in Stamps.

The two important parts of theneighbourhood was the school Maya and herbrother studied in and the Church. Violence spread in Stamps due to the hatecrimes of white men. They terrorized the black community in Stamps. Next is St.Louis, Missouri.

This is where Maya goes to live with grandmother Baxter whenshe was 8 years old. Maya hated this place and could never call it home becauseit reeked of substance abuse and gambling. Then, there is San Francisco theplace Maya loved.

She moved there during the period of the second world war.Many black people took over the businesses left by the Japanese. Maya’s newhome was surrounded by black owned restaurants, churches and pool halls. Themain premise of this book boils down to 3 major aspects. First, there is thepremise of racism. Uncle Willie had to hide in a vegetable bin because somewhite boys were looking for a black man to lynch for the assault of a whitelady.

The black people of Stamps lived in fear because of the terror that whitemen brought upon them. Bailey also witnessed a while man stepping on the corpseof a black man whilst laughing about it which comes to show that the live of ablack person has little to no value to the white people. The next theme in playis the sense of Belonging. Maya was not raised by her real parents. She feltabandoned for a long time with no real place to call home. She had been thevictim of sexual assault from Mr.

Freeman and she moved from place to place tolook for the one place she could someday call home. The only true relative shehad was her brother Bailey. Lastly, Maya talks about her life through thepremise of Self-Acceptance.

Growing up, Maya always thought of herself to beugly and repelling. She had always dreamt of being a beautiful white girl withblonde hair. However, through the journey Maya depicted in the book, she sooncame to realize than she was beautiful in her own way and she also started tolove herself.The bookportrays racism in the form of the brutality towards the black community ofStamps. When a black man had attacked a white lady, a lynch mob is said to becoming for innocent black men. Momma, Bailey and Maya had to help hide UncleWillie in a vegetablebin underpotatoes and onions fearing for his life if he was to get caught and killed.

This act of lynching the black community for crimes they have not committed isrelated to the Scottsboro boys’ trial. “From the death cell here in KilbyPrison, eight of us Scottsboro boys is writing this to you. We have beensentenced to die for something we ain’t never done.

Us poor boys been sentencedto burn up on the electric chair for the reason that we is workers—and thecolor of our skin is black.” (Marable andMullings, 2009, page 280). It portrays the harsh reality that black men facedto be hiding in such an undignified manner in fear for his life even though hewas innocent. Also, when Bailey goes to the white part of town and sees a whiteman standing over a dead black man’s body with mocking laughter he istraumatised to the extent of injustice and what little value the life of ablack man is to a white person. This relates to the Douglass narrative where,”It was common saying even among little white boys that it was worth half acent to kill a “nigger,” and half a cent to burry one” (Douglass 1845). When Bailey confronts Mommaand Uncle Willie about it, they send Bailey and Maya off to California becausethey fear that the children cannot cope with the prejudiced system in Stamps.Another important aspect being portrayed in the book is segregation.

Whitepeople live separately from the black people to the extent that black childrendidn’t know if white people are real and therefore live under the presumption thatwhite people are inhuman and almost alien-like. Maya talks about how the whitepart of town looks very different to that of the part of town she comes fromwhich reinforces the extent of segregation, as well as how the dentist refusedto treat Maya for her cavities because he “rather stick his hand in a dog’smouth than in a nigger’s” (Angelou 1997). Maya was also very upset to hear thatthe white schools will receive more funds than predominantly black schools, andwhat little funds for the blacks has to go to the athletics’ department. Thisis very much related to the issue of Plessy vs Ferguson through their slogan”separate but equal” in which they fought that white and black people shouldride in separate railroads and railway-cars as well as many otheraspects.

“After the U.S. Supreme Courtdecided against Homer Plessy in Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896, segregatedstreetcars as well as railroads prevailed.” (Painter 2007). Redlining is alsoanother proof of segregation.

Redlining is social stigma which forces black andwhite people to live separately. Based on the Mapping Equality website wereviewed in the lecture, it showed that the presence of black people in aneighbourhood drastically decreased its real-estate value which in turn causedmost white people to steer clear from such “red zones” (Lab 2017). Whitesupremacy is the most prevailing issue which is very avidly discussed in thisbook. There were several forms of white supremacy in play in the book. Mommahad learned the hard way the disadvantage she has due to the color of her skin.Her store was often visited by white children who referred to herdisrespectfully, one incident which was particularly highlighted by Maya wherea few white kids from the white part of town come by on one evening to mock andtease Momma yet she did not react to their misbehaviour for she had come toterms with their unfair reality.

Maya was enraged with the way those childrentreated Momma. “Everyone I knew respected these customary laws except forthe powhitetrash children” (Angelou 1997). Based on the movie Malcolm Xwhich was played in class, the dictionary scene in which Malcolm X and hisfriend look up the definitions of the word ‘Black’ and ‘White’ was a clearindication of white supremacy.

In that scene, Black was defined to be evil andshunned whilst white was defined to be pure and good. Another good example ofthe cruelty of white supremacy is the tragic death of Jack Trice. “Jack Trice played in his first “real” college football game againstthe University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. During the second play of the game,he broke his collarbone.

  He insisted he was all right and returnedto the game. In the third quarter, University of Minnesota players forced Triceto the ground and crushed him” (Jack Trice 2017). This resulted in hisdeath because the white players of Minnesota thought that it was shameful toplay against a blackman.

They believed themselves to be of agreater level then Jack.This book has helped people better understandthe history of the African American community. First off, there was life afterslavery. Although slavery officially ended after the 13th Amendmentthere were still lingering trades from slavery. Also, the fact that slavery wasstill allowed as a form of punishment for crimes created a loop hole for whitepeople to lynch black people into slavery.

There also existed a persistent formof racism among the white community who refused to share power with the AfricanAmerican people in the belief that they are more superior. Next is, meagreliving conditions in a prejudiced system due to White Supremacy. Although thereis a lack of legal reasoning for the segregation of black people from whitepeople, there were strict rules in some neighbourhoods that did not allow whitepeople to rent to black families. This did not change until recent years. Whitesupremacy also led to racially motivated hate crimes which still continues tothis day. An example would be the Charleston Church shooting which cost thelives of many black people. Another thing is the Great Migration which was themigration of black people from the south to the north during WW2 for betterliving conditions.

This was deemed possible due to opening up of jobs of thosewho left for war. The life of Maya is one of many black lives in that era thatbuilt up to the background of the Civil Rights Movement. She was a civil rightsactivist who worked side by side with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr toreform the black community as we know today.As aconclusion, it is shown that the Douglass narrative and Scottsboro Boys’ trial arerelated to the theme, racism.

Next in line are Plessy vs Ferguson and Redliningwhich have ties to segregation and the film Malcolm X and the story of JackTrice portray white supremacy. The history of African American people which islearnt from this book is life after slavery, white supremacy, the greatmigration, civil rights movement, brutality and discrimination and Poverty. Essentially, Maya fittingly titlesher book I Know Why Caged Birds Sing for she believes that caged birds singprayers for their release from the bars which reflects Maya being the spirityearning for freedom and is crying for help through prayers, due to her strongreligious background, where she hopes that one day she would be able to spreadher wings and fly away from the cage that is the White Supremacy present in herlife to be free and equal just like the white people of her era.


I'm Casey!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out