“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Angelou

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This work giving emphasis on what is meant by the quote, “I remember never believing that whites were really real” in the book “I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou”. The words are said by one of the characters referred to as Marguerite. She is a black girl whose family lives at a place known as Stamps, which is a small city. To her, she does not seem convinced that whites were really real; as the segregation in her surroundings was so much threatening.

According to her; whites exist but she was not justified that they were human beings because of the fact that, she did not like many of their white neighbors though she knew and understood them. Marguerite could remember the existence of whites after Momma who was her grandmother, and one of the church ladies who used to give her and her brother Bailey money once in a while; to go and purchase fresh meat from the white people residing on the other side of their city. This is a quite notable adventure to her, since some of the black children did not have idea of how white people look like. Although she had the opportunity to meet them, she was not interested too much on them as she knew almost nothing about them.

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The whites according to Marguerite used to undermine the capabilities of the black man; and embraced segregation. This evident from that, whenever a black man was engaged in any wrong doing; the rest of the blacks would be viewed as victims of the given action. This was experienced when Mr. Steward the former sheriff warns Momma that a black man had allegedly mistreated a white woman, and because of this the “the boys” (the KKK) were annoyed and looking forward to disciplining a black man. As a result of this, Mr. Steward feels to have done a great favor to the blacks for alerting them and proposing to them of the actions they should take; so as escape the punishment they were to go through because one black man had molested a white woman.

To Marguerite, everyone she had ever come across was very polite except for the white children, who had no respect to even older people. Despite the fact that even some of these children lived on Momma’s land, they showed her no respect and this could be clearly seen by the fact that they even call her by her first name. Just for the fact that they were white; made them not to care what people thought of them as they felt their white color made them superior to the black people and the black community that neighbored them. As a sign of how cruel they were; they could mimic Momma when they found her droning a hymn and even go as far as making fun of her.

The behavior of the whites to Marguerite seems to be different from that of the blacks. Mr. McElroy a big black man owning a house next to the residence of Momma; was seen to like talking to Willie who was Marguerite’s uncle. Some of the whites also lived on Momma’s land and this showed how generous she was. She understood the nature of the white children and because of this; she had to send her granddaughter Marguerite to go inside the house in order to make sure that she does not learn their behavior. Momma could tolerate their behavior and at the same time say goodbye to them politely.


In conclusion, this quote shows how the different behaviors depicted by different races could demoralize one from being enthusiastic on learning the other people’s culture. This is vastly found when the behaviors of the race are hostile to one another’s race.

Work cited

Angelou, Maya. “I know why the caged bird sings”. Bantam Press. (1983).

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