The Impact of Prejudice in the Authors Work in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an Autobiography by Maya Angelou

Have you ever felt like you’ve never been wanted? Well, Blacks have gone through this experience for decades in their society. We see this experience with Maya Angelou in her autobiography which is set in the south during segregation. In the autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, prejudiceness has impacted Maya throughout the book.

In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, maya faces prejudice, and is constantly fighting this outrage, yet not always winning.

When Maya was 16, she became the first black streetcar operator in San Francisco. Though she had to fight to get into the job. Chapter 34, page 267, states “The incident was a recurring dream, concocted year before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all… The whole charade we had played out in that crummy waiting room had directly to do with me, Black, and her, White.” Maya’s past struggles had impacted her onto overcoming whites.

With Bailey’s and Momma’s love and encouragement from Vivian, Daddy Clidell, and numerous role models and friends, Maya gains the strength to overcome difficulties and realize her full potential.

Chapter 34, page 268, states “I WOULD HAVE THE JOB. I WOULD BE A CONDUCTORETTE AND SLING A FULL MONEY CHANGER FROM MY BELT. I WOULD”. Not only has Maya gain strength from the people around her, she has also gains strength to overcome difficulties on her own. Maya’s independence experience in the junkyard have greatly changed her as well. She then knows why the oppressed caged bird wants to sing.

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Which is to make the best out of her situation and knowing that it is worth trying.

Racist experiences within the people around her, has impacted Maya on how she should control her own racist experiences. For instance, a group of “powhitetrash” was taunting Momma at the store. The white kids were clownish, dirty, and silly. On the other hand, Mama simply stood like a rock and sang the Gospel. Chapter 5, page 32, States “What did she prove? And then if they were dirty, mean, and impudent, why did Momma have to call them Miz?” Momma’s beauty of singing from the Gospel vs the whites racist act creates a powerful scene.

The fact that Momma sang at that moment, she has outsmarted the white youths or even overpowered them. Maya later on understands that Momma had made a smart move and had won. This is a powerful lesson for Maya to learn. Because of her color, she learned young that she would always be considered a second class citizen in the white world. Though she also learned that it is what you make out of it.

Maya had learned plenty from racism and is now able to stand up for herself. While Maya was working for a family as a maid, the family decided to call her Mary. Maya explained to them that Mary wasn’t her name, but they didn’t care. Back then it was common to change a slave’s name because those who were slaves “were not really human beings” according to whites.

Chapter 16, page 109, states “Every person I knew had a hellish horror of being ‘called out of his name.’ It was a dangerous practice to call a Negro anything that could be loosely construed as insulting because of the centuries of their having been called a niggers, jigs, dinges, blackbirds, crows, boots and spooks”. Maya though wasn’t going to let “powhitetrash” disrespect her. She at least needed dignity of being called her own name, and purposely quit her job. The development of Maya’s proudly self was not a smooth process, but she learned to respond to racism by making the good out of it. Throughout her travels, Maya sees that racism exists wherever she goes.

Experiencing racism throughout I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya’s community has made her act differently throughout each racial situation she has. The struggles with race during the oppression revolves racism as the cage around the caged bird. As to the bird is referred as to how Maya has to deal with the racist oppression around her. Overall, racism has impacted Maya onto making the best out of her situation and knowing that it is what you make out of it.

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The Impact of Prejudice in the Authors Work in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an Autobiography by Maya Angelou. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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