Maya Angelou, born in 1928, lived through some of the worst oppression and inequality for African American people. Although slavery had been long abolished, Angelou saw its effects on society. Out of Maya Angelou Poems, ‘Still I Rise’ is her declaration that she would not allow the hatefulness of society to determine her own success.
The title, ‘Still I Rise’ is a proclamation against the society that tries to dominate the speaker’s voice. She represents the black community as a whole. The poem takes the reader through a series of statements the speaker makes about herself. She praises her strength, her body, and her ability to rise up and away from her personal and historical past. Moreover there is nothing that can hold her back. She is going to “rise” above and beyond anything that seeks to control her.
Further she tries to break through the shackles of domination and raises her voice to say that they are no longer mute. They have got the voice to proclaim their rights. No matter how hard they try, she will prove the abilities of black people. The phrase, “I rise” is not about a singular uprising. It’s a collective revolutionary voice that consists of the raging uproar of a class, oppressed and betrayed for a long time.
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You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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