“I rise.” This phrase is said in the 1978 poem, “Still I Rise,” by the African American author, poet, historian, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. In her poem, she expresses African Americans’ growing indignant feelings about history and slavery, including her own. About 150 years ago, having slaves was allowed by the United States government. For this reason, African Americans had such a hard time. However, some countries still have slaves. According to the Walk Free Foundation, an organization that protects human rights, there are still 30 million slaves in the world.
In Angelou’s poem, she describes that she has a better life than white people, but she wants to eliminate slavery in the world. People must not have others as possessions.
In her poem, “I” represents herself and African American slaves, so she connects to the past. Even though she evokes many tearful feelings, she has more revengeful and promising feelings for the future. One of the feelings that she evokes in her poem is the hopeful feeling for slave owners to recognize their immoral behaviors.
In stanza 1, she tells:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. (1-4)
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, there are many slaves in the world, especially Africans, who do not have any rights. People who have slaves use slaves like toys. Many slaves lose their hopes. However, she is saying that she will not give up.
Even though slaves are punished, they do not try to become better slaves. They should try to be treated as humans in order to get human rights. In this stanza, she says that she wants slave owners to remember slaves’ feelings forever, and they should realize that having slaves is wrong.
Another feeling that Angelou tries to show in her poem is rebellion. If slave owners do not take slaves as humans, slaves try to fight against owners. In stanza 6, she tells that the owner hates her because of her behavior, so the owner wants to give a punishment to her. Even though the owner gives a punishment, she does not become a better slave (21-24). This stanza shows the slave owner’s irritating feeling, such as wanting “shoot,” “cut,” and “kill.” Because her behavior is insolent and lazy, the owners feel these feelings.
Angelou really does not want to be controlled. She really wants to get revenge against the slave owners. Even though she has to risk a punishment, she will not be controlled. In this stanza, you can see her strong vengeance towards hateful enemies. The final feeling that she tries to show in her poem is pride. In most stanzas, she asks questions, and after that she shows her prideful feelings. For example, in stanza 7, she tells, “That I dance like I’ve got diamond” (27). Moreover, she also shows pride in the last stanza, the strongest part and the poem’s climax:
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise. (39-41)
She does not feel bad as an African American. Now, she is very proud of her ethnicity because she has a better life than many slave owners. In all stanzas, she shows her feelings of now and for the future, which are positive.
In conclusion, in “Still I Rise,” Angelou has a very strong opinion and bright feelings for herself now and for the future. This poem tells that if people do not give up anything, they can have better lives. Even though people lose their hopes, people try to find them. People will be successful. Slaves and people who do not have hopes should read this poem. Hope that everycountry will not have slaves, and that everyone will have equal rights.