I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou (1928- )

This poem is important to Black History not only because it was written by one of the most influential literary artists in the African American culture, but also because it so eloquently describes the struggle of the oppressed. This poem was actually a reference to the writer’s personal life and hardships, but the value it possesses comes from its ability to apply its meaning to many things like the fight for equality that African Americans constantly faced in the early, mid, and late 1900s.


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

A free bird leaps
On the back of the wind
And floats downstream
Till the current ends
And dips his wing
In the orange sun rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
Down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through
His bars of rage
His wings are clipped and
His feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
With a fearful trill
Of things unknown
But longed for still
And his tune is heard

On the distant hill
For the caged bird
Sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
And he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
With a fearful trill
Of things unknown
But longed for still
And his tune is heard
On the distant hill
For the caged bird
Sings of freedom.