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Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

She was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, MO on


April 4, 1928. After a rough childhood, during which she
became mute for almost five years, she became one of
America’s most lauded poets and writers. While mute, she is
said to have developed her extraordinary memory, her love
for books and her keen ability to listen and observe the
world around her. Angelou became the first African
American streetcar conductor in San Francisco in the
1940s.
After giving birth to a son in 1946, she wrote later in her life that she "slid down the social ladder
into poverty and crime." Without job training or an advanced degree, she worked as a restaurant
cook and prostitute while raising her son as a single mother. She later became a dancer, singer,
and performer in clubs around San Francisco. In 1959 she moved to New York to concentrate on
her writing. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild. After meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960
she became an organizer and activist. She became friends with Malcolm X a few years later and
help him build a new civil rights organization.

Angelou is best known as a prolific and award-winning author and civil rights activist. In 1993, she
recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. She was
awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.

Answer true or false to the following questions and justify your response.

Her real name is Marguerite Ann Johnson True False


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She didn’t speak for nearly five years True False
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Angelou became the first African American activist in 1940 True False
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She became a dancer in clubs around New York True False
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She became friends with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960 True False
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She sang her one of her poems "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration
of President Bill Clinton. True False
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She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. True False
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She died in 2014 True False
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Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014
First, underline the words Dr. Angelou uses to portray
of hopelessness, then circle the words she uses to
support the idea of rising above adversity

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


I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear


I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Find five negative words in the first 2 stanzas.

___________________ ___________________ ___________________

___________________ ___________________

Fill in the chart with personification, metaphor and simile.

similes metaphors personification


Questions "Still I Rise:"

Who do you think the narrator is "speaking to”?

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Why is she addressing this “you”?

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The poet mentions that she’s got (at least) three things that she considers very valuable—
things, not character or personality traits.

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What are the “huts of history?” Why must the poet “rise” out of these “huts?”

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Why is the poet like “air”?

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What is the overall tone of the poem? What do you think Angelou is trying to accomplish
with her poem?

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