Quotations From MAYA ANGELOU


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  • During those years in Stamps, I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare. He was my first white love.... it was Shakespeare who said, "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." It was a state of mind with which I found myself most familiar. I pacified myself about his whiteness by saying that after all he had been dead so long it couldn't matter to anyone any more.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 2 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s. Shakespeare had, of course, "been dead" for more than three centuries: since 1616. "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" is the first line of sonnet no. 29.

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  • In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 4 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s.

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  • People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn't buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 8 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s.

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  • This might be the end of the world. If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than apes. True that we were stupid and ugly and lazy and dirty and, unlucky and worst of all, that God Himself hated us and ordained us to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, forever and ever, world without end.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 19 (1970). Remembering the significance to African American Southerners of a world heavyweight championship bout fought by African American boxer Joe Louis (1914-1981), the defending champion, against Primo Carnera (1906-1967), a white Italian challenger and former heavyweight champion. Angelou's grandmother ran a store in the small, strictly segregated, brutally racist town of Stamps, Arkansas. Her family and neighbors crowded the store to listen to the fight on radio. As it turned out, Louis won this and every one of his other twenty-four title defenses until his first retirement in 1949.

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  • Then the question began to live under my blankets: How did lesbianism begin? What were the symptoms? The public library gave information on the finished lesbian—and that woefully sketchy—but on the growth of a lesbian, there was nothing. I did discover that the difference between hermaphrodites and lesbians was that hermaphrodites were "born that way." It was impossible to determine whether lesbians budded gradually, or burst into being with a suddenness that dismayed them as much as it repelled society.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, vol. 1, ch. 35 (1969).
  • At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 31 (1969).

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  • My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 19 (1970). Remembering a world heavyweight championship fight of African American boxer Joe Louis (1914-1981), the defending champion, against Primo Carnera (1906-1967), a white Italian challenger and former heavyweight champion. Angelou's grandmother ran a store in the small, strictly segregated, brutally racist town of Stamps, Arkansas. Her family and neighbors crowded the store to listen to the fight on radio. At this point, Carnera had Louis on the ropes and was pummelling him. But Louis would fight back and prevail. Louis, who had won the championship in 1937 by defeating James J. Braddock, held it until his first retirement in 1949; he had defended the title successfully twenty-five times, scoring twenty-one knockouts. He returned to fighting in 1950 and retired permanently the following year, ironically after being knocked out by a white Italian-American: Rocky Marciano (1924-1969). It was only his third defeat in seventy-one professional fights.

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  • While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to man.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). "Involvement in Black and White," interview, Oregonian (Portland, February 17, 1971). Angelou lived and worked in Ghana and Egypt, 1962-1966.

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  • The sadness of the women's movement is that they don't allow the necessity of love. See, I don't personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). "Listening to Maya Angelou," California Living (May 14, 1975).

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  • Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, "I'm going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough. I am going to snow anyway."
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). "Maya Angelou: An Interview," (first published Oct. 1974).

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