Through Their Voices She Found Her Voice: Women in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Correa, Claudia Maria Fernandes | ARIEL, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Through Their Voices She Found Her Voice: Women in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Correa, Claudia Maria Fernandes, ARIEL


Introduction

On January 20, 1996 the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil enacted Law #9394, which was a first attempt to recover the history and contribution of Africans and African-descendants in the construction of the Brazilian nation. The law introduced the study of the history of these peoples at all levels of education. At that time, some schools and universities began to train teachers to introduce the subject in a transdisciplinary form and, therefore, several works by African and Afro-Brazilians were re-read as African in different areas of knowledge and, especially in academic settings, more theses on the culture, history and literature of these peoples were written.

Eight years later on January 9, 2003, Law #10,639 replaced the previous law, mandating the teaching of black culture in the school system, and as a result, the question of Africa in Brazilian history gained more attention from all areas of the government and education. In addition, the general population paid more attention to the discussions involved. Consequently, there was a further impetus to revisit the history and culture of Africa and African-descended peoples. In view of this, especially the African cultural production (in English, French and Portuguese) and writers of African descent (both in the United States, the Caribbean and Brazil) in various genres gained prominence in academic circles. In particular, the rapprochement between the female writers (in the United States, Brazil and Africa) expanded as it demonstrates, in a sense, the stories of everyday women which, despite being told in different languages, have many similarities. One such example is the work of the African-American author Maya Angelou. In Brazil, she is known best for her poem "On the Pulse of Morning," which she reared at the inauguration of American President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since then, we have seen in Brazil her participation in such films as How to Make an American Quilt and the television series Touched by an Angel; in the literary field, Angelou appeared on the scene in 1997 when the first translation of her autobiographical work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1971) was released and, since then, several comparative studies of the work in question can be found because Angelou's narrative established such a powerful mirror relation with readers in Brazil. Readers can find reciprocity in the words of the African American writer, a reciprocity, which contributes to the understanding of the role of women, especially black women, in society.

I.

Survival. This is a word that is implicit in the trajectory and settlement of the Africans who were taken to the New World, to the Americas. Victims of mercantilism, uprooted from their homeland, these people were enslaved and then taken to the United States and elsewhere, a place that wanted them as property, as a work force, but refused them citizenship.

Their humanity was denied, their culture, which included their gods, their religion and their music, was banished. But the worst and most devastating strike was made when their language, the means by which they expressed their views, beliefs and thoughts, was wiped out, for how do you say that you "are" when the web of signifiers you have always known is torn and you are placed on "water without boundaries" (Diedrich, Gates and Pedersen 17)? How do you say that you "are" in a language that is not your own once the Europeans had acquired the right over definitions? What is a person without his/her own language?

Since the beginning of slavery most of the battle over who could rule Blacks was fought by using the power of the word. Therefore Africans who witnessed the horrors of the Middle Passage, the "voyage through death" as Robert Hayden puts it, and their descendants who lived enslaved, suffered the beatings, the brutality and violence of slavery, fought not only for freedom. They fought for the right to be: the right to be a person and to be respected as such. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Through Their Voices She Found Her Voice: Women in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.