© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil. (Prologue.9)

Even as a little girl, Maya already has it in her head that white girls are sugar, spice, and everything nice. Little black girls? Not so much. Racism has already made its way into Maya's world—and it's not leaving any time soon.

Quote #2

Boys? No, rather men who were covered with graves' dust and age without beauty or learning. The ugliness and rottenness of old abominations. (3.10)

Mr. Stewart wins understatement of the year by calling the Ku Klux Klan members "boys." We bet he also calls monster trucks "tricycles." To learn more about the KKK and its revival in the 20th century, check out what our beloved History Channel has to say.

Quote #3

I wanted to throw a handful of black pepper in their faces, to throw lye on them, to scream that they were dirty, scummy peckerwoods, but I knew I was as clearly imprisoned behind the scene as the actors outside were confined to their roles. (5.22)

Maya is still young when the white girls come to the Store and taunt Momma, but she already knows what it means to be black in Stamps. And for that matter, what it means to be white in Stamps. When in Caged Bird does Maya realize that there's a way out of these confined roles?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...