Maya Angelou was an American poet, actress, civil rights activist. She was born on 4 April 1928 and died on 28 May 2014. She has written many other poems such as On the Pulse of Morning, Woman Work, Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me, A Brave and Startling Truth, We Had Him.
Still I rise is found in Maya’s third volume of poetry, And Still I rise, which is made up of 32 short poems. This poem is the title poem of the collection. All of the poems have the main theme of rising against oppression.
This poem by Maya Angelou is hope for everybody who has been a victim of oppression or any kind of injustice by others. It is a dig at those who hold the power but work against the masses. It depicts that no matter how harshly you have been treated, you must always rise against the wrongdoings and you must never lose hope. Although this poem was addressed mainly for the civil rights issue but gives hope to every victim of any type of injustice.
The repetition of “I rise” at the end of the poem gives the reader enthusiasm to get up again and fight for their rights.
While Nelson Mandela was in prison, he came to know about Angelou’s poems, he read Still I rise at his inauguration in May 1994. This poem is influenced by her own experiences in America as a Black American Woman. The message of hope and liberation has been the message of most of Angelou’s poems.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.