Study Guide

Africa What's Up With the Title?

By Maya Angelou

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What's Up With the Title?

"Africa" takes on an almost mythic character in this poem – so it's strangely fitting that Angelou would choose to keep her title simple and to the point. Want to know what this poem is about? It's about Africa. Easy, right?

Well, not exactly. After all, precisely what is this "Africa" Angelou is describing? Is it a landmass? A person? A group of people? A culture?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you'd be right – which is precisely why this poem is so interesting. See, "Africa" becomes a larger-than-life entity in the poem, one able to outlast the horrors of the recent (and not-so-recent) past. It does so by eclipsing all of the categories that you could pigeonhole it into. If the landmass is ravaged, the people survive. If the people are captured, the culture manages to remain part of their lives.

See what we mean? In a deft sleight-of-hand, Angelou transforms an often-overlooked landmass and a beleaguered group of people into an unbreakable force. Sure, she starts to develop the notion of Africa's strength in the content of the last stanza, but the seeds of the idea get planted before we even read the first line. That, folks, is what a good title can do.

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