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Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”

The spirit of renaissance stirs through many literary works from the last quarter of the 20th century, rejuvenating African American’s will to defy an oppressive system. One such invigorating creation is Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise. This paper analyses how Angelou’s poem criticizes racism and marginalized conditions that have perpetually robbed African Americans of their dreams. Angelou’s poem celebrates the resourcefulness and beauty of the African American females and asserts blacks’ unwavering resolve to overcome the traumatizing legacy of slavery and discrimination.

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African American Renaissance spirit was stirred by exceptional black women writers such as Maya Angelou. The renowned activist graces Still I Rise with the creativity of a seasoned writer, as one can glean from the range of literary devices expertly decorating the poem. The poet weaves imagery, similes, rhetorical questions, anaphora, and other techniques into the poem to stress a point. For example, the speaker asks, “Does my sassiness upset you? Did you want to see me broken?” (Angelou).

It takes remarkable ingenuity to poetically argue that the oppressor is jealous of African Americans’ capabilities hence the concerted efforts to disenfranchise them. The poet also employs symbols such as gold mines,” “diamonds,” and “oil wells” (Angelou). Symbolism enables the poem to emphasize the vast intellectual wealth blacks, especially black women, possess. Therefore, the poem combines many literary techniques boasting female African Americans’ authorial prowess.

Another salient feature rooting Maya’s poem in the renaissance epoch is its special attention to the toll of slavery and segregation on African Americans’ psychological and spiritual lives. The piece portrays the status quo as a legacy of slavery. For example, the speaker describes herself as “the dream and the hope of the slave” (Angelou). She implies that the oppressor condemned her ancestors to brutal servitude, leaving them no choice but to hope for a better, distant future they could not themselves live to witness. Moreover, the poem pokes fun at the misguided belief that modernized, subtle, but still lethal tactics for perpetuating discrimination can keep her race enslaved forever.

She asks perpetrators of oppression if they expected her to remain “broken,” wretched, winy, and feeble from intergenerational “soulful cries” (Angelou). Although the speaker’s past nurtured her will and tools to defy discrimination, her enslaved forefathers were not quite lucky.

Also, a significant portion of the poem highlights specific slavery’s raw effects, all of which stubbornly continue to characterize contemporary society. In the first stanza, the speaker notes how the persecutor distorted history by spinning facts and “trod [African Americans] in the very dirt” (Angelou).

The dominant culture spreads misinformation about African Americans, such as painting them as inherently violent, thus failing to appreciate their true history and how slavery and discrimination continue to shape their lives today. Interestingly, Maya selectively uses active words – “shoot,” “cut,” and “kill” – to convey the gravity of violence and injustice the oppressor has historically meted on African Americans. It is not uncommon for African Americans to be brutalized and even killed by law enforcement officers, one of the oppressor’s machinery.

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All in all, Angelou’s Still I Rise is a poetic criticism of social, economic, and political segregation fueling racial injustice against African Americans. This work boasts the undeterred spirit, intellectual wealth, and captivating beauty in black women and, by extension, all African Americans. It is strictly the outcry of the historically oppressed black minority. This interpretation is vital as it focuses attention on the many ways racism permeates contemporary American society.

Works Cited

Angelou, Maya. “Still I Rise.Poetry Foundation. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 2). Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/maya-angelous-still-i-rise-a-renaissance-anthem/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 2). Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”. https://studycorgi.com/maya-angelous-still-i-rise-a-renaissance-anthem/

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StudyCorgi. "Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”." August 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/maya-angelous-still-i-rise-a-renaissance-anthem/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”." August 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/maya-angelous-still-i-rise-a-renaissance-anthem/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise: A Renaissance Anthem”'. 2 August.

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