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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 1 Summary

  • Maya (our narrator) and Bailey Jr. (her big bro) get packed up and shipped out of California when their parents split up. They are addressed like a package (did you know that you can ship children?) to Mrs. Annie Henderson in Stamps, Arkansas. 
  • Before you worry about toddlers alone on a train, don't worry—there was a porter looking after them. For part of the trip, at least.
  • When they get to Arkansas, Marguerite and Bailey live with Momma (their grandmother) and their uncle Willie in the back of the store Momma owns.
  • The Store began as a simple mobile lunch counter, but grew into a hub for the black neighborhood of Stamps. It seems like a small, old school Wal-Mart, selling everything from onions to kerosene.
  • Marguerite gets the hang of living in the store. She knows exactly what time of year the cotton pickers will go to work, when the customers will be happy, and when they will be sad.
  • Momma has a routine: she wakes up at four in the morning, prays, gives the children chores, and lets in the people who are waiting to enter the store.
  • In the morning, the workers are energetic and hopeful, but by the afternoon, they aren't so happy.
  • They return to the Store in the evening worn out and dirty, only to go out again the next day to make barely any money. 
  • Welcome to "Black Southern life" (1.24).

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