Author: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (b. 1928) was born in St. Louis, Missouri as Marguerite Johnson. When she was eight years old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was killed soon after his release from jail—probably by members of Angelou’s family. As a result, she became mute for almost five years, believing that her voice had killed the man. During the 1950s and 1960s, she participated in the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1969, she published her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and wrote several books of poetry in the 1980s and 1990s, including Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? (1983), I Shall Not Be Moved (1990), and A Brave and Startling Truth (1995).

Caged Bird

Maya Angelou

The poem comes from Maya Angelou’s work, Shaker, Why Don\'t You Sing? and comprises Angelou’s response to Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s 1899 poem  “Sympathy,” which also references a caged bird.