May 28th, 2014

RIP Maya Angelou

The news that Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86 reminds me of how deeply impressed I was when I read her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when it first came out in 1969.

Those who read it now probably can’t quite imagine how fresh and powerful it was at that time. In the interim, coming-of-age memoirs by women—including by black or other minority women—have become far more commonplace, as have descriptions of childhood sexual abuse. Those things were part of Angelou’s book back in a time when they were unusual to read about, and that was arresting. But a lot of other things about her book remain extraordinary, and they are the reason I read it and found it memorable.

The first is the power of her unique and lyric voice, which was (and remains) utterly arresting and utterly engaging. The reader is drawn at once into the world of Angelou’s childhood, where black children are sent on trains halfway across the country with notes pinned on their clothing as to where they’re going, and met by grandmothers who take them in and raise them with strength and religion and firmness in a world that is entirely black, including the schools and the teachers. The portrait in the book of Angelou’s grandmother Annie Henderson is one of the great ones of memoir. Nor is it sugar-coated and touchy-feely; her grandmother was deeply loving but extremely formidable.

The rape that occurs later, at the hands of Angelou’s mother’s live-in boyfriend when 8-year-old Maya and her brother have been sent back to St. Louis to live with her, is heartbreakingly rendered. Described from the child’s viewpoint, it somehow manages to depict something that has rarely been conveyed so well: how the child’s starvation for paternal affection can set up the neediness that makes him/her vulnerable, how wily and then how brutal the rapist can be, and how a sensitive child might react. In Angelou’s case, when her uncles took revenge and murdered the rapist, she felt that her talking about the rape had caused his death, and so she decided to stop talking entirely:

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone …”

It took a long time for Angelou to find her voice again—five years of silence. Initially she was sent back to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother in a more stable environment, and that helped a bit. But it was literature and a wonderful teacher that convinced her to return to the world and its people.

Angelou wrote many more memoirs besides Caged, and over the years I’ve read quite a few of them. They’re of interest to anyone interested in Angelou’s life, and they constitute a story of overcoming great odds. But none of them even remotely touches the heights of her first book. I’ve often thought that many writers have one book in them that they must write, are driven to write, and that for Angelou that book was Caged. The rest was commentary.

The same for her poems, which I don’t much care for. But Caged was a masterpiece when it was first written. I don’t know how it holds up today because I haven’t read it in many years. But I bet it holds up just fine.

Angelou gained fame as a writer, but she was not only a writer. If you read about her life you may be struck, as I’ve been for years, by how varied and accomplished it was. Hers was a life lived fully. Of how many people can you say that?

RIP, Maya Angelou.

[NOTE: There’s not all that much in Angelou’s obits or even her Wiki entry about her politics. She was very active in the civil rights movement as a young woman, and Wiki mentions an early pro-Castro period, but it is my impression (including the indications in this article, as well) that she was a liberal Democrat. She seems to have been especially close to the Clintons, and supported Hillary’s bid over Obama’s in 2008. Her ties to Arkansas probably at least partially explain that fact.)

45 Responses to “RIP Maya Angelou”

  1. Don Carlos Says:

    From the AP obit:

    “Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’s defeat in 1936 against German fighter Max Schmeling:

    “My race groaned,” she wrote. “It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”

    She caught the Great Black Wave and rode it. Race ist Alles.
    Better one Robert Frost than 100 self-pitying racists like Maya the self-named.

  2. Steve Rosenbach Says:

    “…She was very active in the civil rights movement as a young woman.”

    I’m having trouble finding real evidence of that. She spent most of the time from 1961-65 in Ghana, rather than in the US. Both Malcolm and MLK asked her for help, and she agreed, but in each case, she postponed. By the time she was ready to help, each one was assassinated before she was ready to get involved.

    Am I missing other evidence?

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    That excerpt is from the book Caged, and your comment demonstrates to me that you’ve almost certainly not read the book nor are you aware of what Angelou’s stance was.

    First of all, she’s describing Louis’ re-match against Schmeling in 1938, when she had just turned ten. She was a child (a child who had stopped speaking, I might add) living in a small segregated town deep in the rural south when very real discrimination—not imagined victimhood—was part and parcel of her life and the lives of everyone around her. Louis, who was seen as a potential hero by the black community, had been knocked out by Schmeling in 1936, which had dealt a tremendous blow to them as well. This was the rematch, and she is describing the reactions of the people around her, who were understandably deeply involved in the outcome.

    You left out what she wrote after that last sentence you offer:

    …If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than the apes…

    And then when he won:

    Champion of the world. A Black boy. Some Black mother’s son. He was the strongest man in the world. People drank Coca-Cola like ambrosia and ate candy bars like Christmas.”

    If you can’t understand this sentiment under those circumstances, then I can’t help you do so. But if you read her book, I don’t see how you could call her—or her community at the time, or her grandmother—self-pitying. Considering the circumstances, they were actually remarkably devoid of self-pity.

    What’s going on today is quite different. But there’s something called historical context.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve Rosenbach:

    See this:

    In 1960 Maya Angelou, a single mother and struggling actor, accepted the position of northern coordinator for the New York office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). It was in this capacity that Angelou first met Martin Luther King, Jr. Although she worked with SCLC for only six months, King was “grateful” for her contribution, particularly the coordination of many several fundraising ventures…

    After hearing King speak at a church in Harlem in early 1960, Angelou resolved to help SCLC raise funds by staging a revue, “Cabaret for Freedom.” The revue was a rousing success, with well-known black celebrities Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lorraine Hansberry attending opening night.

    Following Bayard Rustin’s departure from SCLC in 1960, Angelou succeeded him as director of the New York office. After two months on the job, Angelou met King on one of his visits to New York. In her autobiography, The Heart of a Woman, she discussed her first impressions of King: “He was shorter than I expected and so young. He had an easy friendliness, which was unsettling”.

    In late 1960 Angelou met Vusumzi Make, a South African freedom fighter. The two were married in January 1961. That month Angelou officially resigned from her position and wished King, SCLC, and the cause “a year of unlimited strides.”…

    She left because she moved to Africa with her husband and her son. She returned a few years later:

    Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help [Malcolm X] build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward.

    After that, she was about to work with King again when he was assassinated. After that, she turned to working on her writing.

  5. Don Carlos Says:

    I understand the sentiments, Neo. The words speak for themselves. That you would have me understand the sentiment(s) behind the words bounces off me, Res ipsa loquitur.

  6. Ann Says:

    Angelou was also an actress/singer, and that came across in much of how she presented herself. I remember first seeing her in the late 1960s on a TV show produced by San Francisco’s PBS station, KQED. She was very mannered, in a 60s ethnic-awareness sort of way that was both off-putting and captivating.

  7. kit Says:

    Obama campaign, in 2012, sent out emails from Angelou in which it appears that she asks black voters to vote for him because he is black. Racist.

    And this was after America had already suffered 4 years with the disease known as Obama.

  8. Beverly Says:

    Oh, she could write, all right. I read “Caged Bird” when I was in high school, and was struck by how powerful it was (also was very moved by the “Autobiography [sic] of Malcolm X,” which I learned years later was partly fictional and wholly written by Alex Haley).

    In recent years, I read her remaining four autobiographies, for a TV producer who was contemplating making them a series. She still had the great gift for writing, but two vignettes stood out in my mind. One was her account of going to Africa and falling in love with a polygamist Muslim, and seriously contemplating becoming his fourth wife. That happened after she toyed with and tormented a white musician she played with in Paris, enjoying rejecting him (as she frankly acknowledged) because he was white.

    I kinda give her and those of her generation a pass on their anger and, yes, hatred, of my own race, because of what they went through when they were younger. It’s understandable. I just wish they wouldn’t keep it going for succeeding generations.

  9. neo-neocon Says:


    Obviously I disagree with Angelou’s politics. But those who think she reflexively supports blacks because she’s some sort of racist conveniently ignore her support for Hillary Clinton over Obama in 2008.

    Of course she was happy at Obama’s inauguration because he was black—why wouldn’t she be? And of course in 2012, as a liberal Democrat and a black person, she supported voting for him. But by my reading of it you are exaggerating the message of her email, the text of which appears here. Yes, she’s saying that Obama’s election as a black man is important for blacks. Her main message is VOTE! And yes, it is a letter of support for Obama. She is assuming that when black people vote, they will vote for him (mostly correct), both as Democrats and as black people. But the email is mostly emphasizing the privilege of voting and the need to vote.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    One of the things that has struck me about Angelou’s writing—and that makes me defend her here against commenters who I feel mischaracterize this aspect of her—is that in her books she is unusually honest about her own flaws.

    For example, the way she portrays herself when she has sex very young and gets pregnant certainly makes herself out to be neither a heroine nor a victim. Just naive and stupid, ignorant and troubled. That sort of honesty runs through much of her memoir writing. It is the very opposite of someone seeking to make herself out to be a victim, or angry at the world for doing her dirt. If she mistreated a white musician and acknowledged enjoying it, I doubt very much she was bragging about that fact.

  11. SteveH Says:

    She sort of reminded me of Obama. An articulate and well mannered façade that covered up a huge chip on the shoulder.

  12. neo-neocon Says:


    Have you read Caged? Whatever her manner of presenting herself once she became older and famous, your description does not fit the book at all. Not especially well-mannered, and considering her history not much of a chip on the shoulder.

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    I ask, perhaps somewhat rhetorically, why read an Angelou memoir of naivete, stupidity, ignorance and troubles? We are awash, drowning even, in a sea of stupidity and troubles. More redistribution, please, and quickly.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    Are you really that dense? Her memoir is neither stupid nor ignorant, nor is the person writing it. She’s describing her ignorance and some stupid things she did as a teenager, years earlier. And she’s not sparing herself or making excuses for herself.

    That is a small part of the book. Much of it is devoted to other things, such as the very strong character and example of her grandmother, and people in the community that helped raise her (including the teacher who helped her to start speaking again), as I already indicated.

    If you would prefer to read (or to write) a book about someone who never did anything stupid in their lives, who was born knowing everything and behaving perfectly, or who wants to present themselves as having always been that way, go right ahead.

  15. BurkeanMama Says:

    I think I sympathize here with both Neo-neo’s argument and Don Carlos. Neo-neo read a powerfully written book about a time when Black Americans truly were victimized. Don Carlos wakes up every morning in a world in which he is expected to willfully accept punishment for sins committed before he was born.

    The racial grievance industry has made it impossible to separate Angelou’s work with the battering of accusations we live with every day. Perhaps if Angelou had spent the last 40 years saying, “black Americans have it so much better today than we did, you have to stop making excuses for your failures out of tragedys a half a century old” Perhaps then Don Carlos would be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But all he is hearing is that everything wrong in the black community today is all his fault, and it is hard to hear the words even of a powerful memoir over the screams of “RACIST!”

    Plus her poetry was atrocious.

  16. parker Says:

    As a general principle I do not bad mouth the dead. MA was a talented person, that is undeniable. Were there things which I found distasteful about her ideas, yes. But over all I find her life and her work to be on the positive side of the scale.

    “I just wish they wouldn’t keep it going for succeeding generations.”


    That’s where the money is. For the race hustlers its big money; for the lazy its free food, free rent, free medical care, free cell phones, and an excuse to explain way their lack of self-respect.

  17. SteveH Says:

    “” Perhaps if Angelou had spent the last 40 years saying, “black Americans have it so much better today than we did, you have to stop making excuses for your failures out of tragedys a half a century old””

    That would have gotten her twelve books sold, zero inauguration invites and a three line obituary in some Arkansas newspaper tomorrow morning.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Burkean Mama:

    I agree that her poetry was not good at all. But I think the same of the vast majority of poetry today, so she’s not really an exception.

    I also didn’t particularly care for her other memoirs. Although they were somewhat interesting they were hardly memorable. Caged was very different; memorable and brilliant, especially if read when it first came out.

    Nor am I aware of what she said what she spoke to audiences, black or otherwise, about blacks today and their victimization or non-victimization. Googling just now, I did find this quote from one of her later books, which I think is interesting:

    Dressing down some whites for a perceived insult, Angelou purrs: “There was a delicious silence. For the moment, I had them and their uneasiness in the palm of my hand. The sense of power was intoxicating.” But shortly afterward she acknowledges that “the old habits of withdrawing into righteous indignation or lashing out furiously against insults were not applicable in this circumstance. Oh, the holiness of always being the injured party. The historically oppressed can find not only sanctity but safety in the state of victimization.

    Interesting, I think. I don’t know how often she sounded that note, and to whom, but at least she seemed aware of the pitfalls of the victim role.

    I really wasn’t into studying Angelou as a personality or a poet. But I salute her as the author of Caged. I don’t require that artists share my politics—which is a very good thing because they rarely do. When they do, however, I’m delighted (as I was when I discovered myself to be largely simpatico with Robert Frost’s politics, since he was already one of my very favorite poets).

  19. Molly NH Says:

    I found her a compelling writer & poet, but she did come across as having (as they like to say these days) an
    *attitude*, she seemed to dislike whites. As Neo says though, she came from a different time & probably endured alot more than we realize.
    As far as her writing, it seems it would appeal more to women than men. So she ‘s a *chick’s writer* the exception to that being Obama he must love her talent !

  20. Don Carlos Says:

    She authored seven (!) memoirs.
    Who can top that?
    Probably BHO will get it done.

  21. G Joubert Says:

    At the first opportunity you’ve jumped at the chance to get yourself all dressed up in your old libtard gladrags.

    Whatever genius she had was more than countered by her inchoate and failed world view. In the end, she wasn’t all that.

  22. Ann Says:

    I never got the sense that Angelou didn’t like white people. She may have actually hated us, but, if she did, I think she struggled against that feeling. This, which she said to the Wash. Post at the time she was chosen by Bill Clinton to create the inaugural poem, I think speaks to her basic generosity of spirit:

    “It is fitting, at the risk of taking away from the fact that he really likes my poetry, it is fitting that he asks a woman and a black woman to write a poem about the tenor of the times. It might be symbolic that black women when looked at are on the bottom of the graph. It is probably fitting that a black woman try to speak to the alienation, the abandonment and to the hope of healing those inflictions which have befallen all Americans, that accounts for white Americans feeling so estranged. Somehow a black woman knows all about that.”

  23. JohnC Says:

    I suppose many of us reading this post are just plain dense. Perhaps that would explain what I suspect is some silence this time. On the other hand, we might not be so dense. Maybe the suspected silence is due to a profound respect for Neo herself, although that profundity might be sagging a little at the moment. Surely, it’s not because of a profound dislike of a racist and a profound weariness of racialism even thought that racist produced what some call a brilliant work in the past.

  24. neo-neocon Says:

    G Jourbet:

    At the first opportunity you have jumped at the chance to imagine what I’m writing and meaning.

    Or maybe it’s not the first opportunity. But you’re taking the opportunity, although I really don’t know why.

    I said my piece. Let me repeat: I do not agree with Angelou’s politics. I don’t like her poetry at all (what I’ve seen of it). Her other memoirs were okay, not especially good. But Caged is excellent, and I came to that conclusion in 1969 when I first read it. I thought it was quite brilliant at the time, reread it many years later (but probably twenty or so years ago) and thought it held up very well.

    The woman died. I am praising that work, which in my opinion was probably the book that captured the essence of what formed her life and sensibility, since it was her first and best book, and described her formative years.

    You may have noticed on this blog I often praise artists (musicians, writers, painters, dancers) whose politics disagree with mine. I enjoy the arts, and I refuse to only praise the artistic efforts of those who march in lockstep with me.

    How any of that constitutes “jumping at the chance to get myself all dressed up my old libtard gladrags” is a mystery. But hey, don’t bother to prove it or indicate why it might be so; just state it. That’s very convincing.

    And by the way, even when I was a liberal I had the same attitude. I never praised a work of art because it was trendy, or because the politics agreed with mine. I could not have cared less about either thing. I praised it if I liked it as a work of art, and I didn’t care if I was the only one doing it. I criticized it if I didn’t like it, and I didn’t care if everyone else loved it.

    In other words, I always tried to think for myself. Do you?

  25. neo-neocon Says:


    I am profoundly weary of racists and the race card myself.

    What in the book Caged is racist? I have not combed through it today, but I remember it well, and I recall it as being surprisingly un-racist considering its theme and the times it described. I remember Angelou as taking responsibility for her own life and not claiming victimhood as an excuse.

    I can’t say I’ve followed all the twistings and turnings of her life since. Have you? What’s so racist about her? More relevant to this post is the question: what’s racist about the book Caged? Her description of how the black adults around her, in segregation-era Stamps, Arkansas, rejoiced at Joe Louis’ victory in 1938? That’s what “Don Carlos” cited as racism, and IMHO it doesn’t pass the test at all, as I wrote above. If you have any other evidence of racism in the book, please feel free to offer it.

    I’m genuinely pleased that you have “profound respect” for me. But I must say I’m puzzled as to why that respect would be “sagging” as a result of this post.

  26. JohnC Says:

    You asked .. ..

    I don’t know whether respect for you has taken a hit here or not. But I do know that in most circumstances when a leader calls a long term, obviously bright and interested member of her / his audience dense (which has many implications) and then goes into what appears to be an over the top defense of of a work by someone who is deeply suspect by many in the same audience, a sagging of respect for that leader can result. As you know, I do have profound respect for you, and I say profound without apology. You’re brilliant and I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying your posts for at least 5, 6 or 7 or 8 years. But I honestly don’t care for the way you’ve handled several interactions in this particular post. It appears to be your way or the highway this time.

  27. Cornhead Says:

    Was set to appear in Omaha on June 6th.

  28. vanderleun Says:

    You people are all out of your now deeply diseased minds. Not everything every day has to be translated into the kinds of interior crapola that satisfies all your little internal hallucinations.

    Angelou wrote one very good book. That is five hundred more volumes than any of you will ever write.

    It doesn;t matter what your puny smarmy politics are… go and argue with the living.

    As for this you are all coming off as midgets. Shut up and go away and grow up.

  29. vanderleun Says:

    As for:

    “G Joubert Says:
    May 28th, 2014 at 10:25 pm
    At the first opportunity you’ve jumped at the chance to get yourself all dressed up in your old libtard gladrags.”

    Well, your drool cup runneth over, doth it not?

  30. Gringo Says:

    I read Caged Bird in the early 70s. I considered it a good book at the time, and see no reason to change my mind. [OTOH, at the time I read Malcom X’s autobiography, and have subsequently learned that it was not entirely factual.]

    For the life of me, I don’t see why one should have a problem with blacks in the 1930s rejoicing over Joe Louis beating Max Schmelling in the boxing ring. While Schmelling wasn’t a Nazi, certainly Nazi propaganda played up the mighty Aryan against the subhuman black.

    We should condemn blacks for rejoicing “their guy” striking a literal blow against Nazi propaganda? Not from my point of view.

    [And even if one wanted to condemn blacks for rejoicing over Joe Louis’s victories, it should be pointed out that Maya was simply recording what a child recalled about adults’ reactions. A child is not responsible for adults.]

    Maya Angelou wrote about growing up in the Jim Crow South. Why should we expect a black to have fond memories of Jim Crow? Tell me another one.

    A hometown neighbor of the Afro-American persuasion served with distinction in WW 2. I had been friends with one of his children since elementary school, and visited them when I was back in town. After he died, I read some of his recollections of WW2. He had been born and raised in NYC,and didn’t take kindly to the exposure to Jim Crow he got when his armed forces duty took him down South- “like South Africa.” I sensed some anger in that- an anger which surprised me because I had never seen him angry. He was always cordial with me, a longtime friend of one of his children. But why should he have liked Jim Crow? Was not anger- a controlled anger- an appropriate response to Jim Crow? Ditto for Maya Angelou.

    One thing I recall from one of her books was that years later she made a visit to the junior high school she attended in San Francisco. When she identified herself to one of her 8th grade teachers, the reply came back, “I remember you. You were a good student.” Nothing gushing, just matter-of-fact respect, which Maya Angelou appreciated. [I don’t have the book in front of me, but as I recall, that teacher was white.]

    The point is that I didn’t get the impression that Maya Angelou demonized whites. Some treated her fairly, some did not. She described them as she saw them.

    I have no idea what POTUS has said about Maya Angelo’s death. Nor do I want to know. The POTUS blathers, about Maya Angelou or any other subject.

    I read very little poetry, so I have no idea what her poetry was like.

    But Jim Crow is gone. I am not going to support reparations in memory of Maya Angelou.

  31. waitforit Says:

    Into the parlor for tea and cakes!
    The parlor hummed and hemmed.
    Some animals could not partake
    And forfend the parlor as a friend.

    They, rose, as doughy bread
    Made active in yeasty brew
    Struck out the batter instead!
    Now all know not what to do.

  32. Gringo Says:

    My memory and Google Books intersect: page 167 of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    There were no favorite students. No teacher’s pets…Each day she faced us with a clean slate and acted as if ours were clean as well. Reserved and firm in her opinions, she spent no time indulging the frivolous.

    She was stimulating instead of intimidating. While some of the other teachers went out of their way to be nice to me- to be a “liberal” with me- Miss Kirwin never seemed to notice that I was Black and therefore different. I was Miss Johnson and if I had the answer to a question she posed I was never given any more than the word “Correct,” which is what she said to every other student with the correct answer.

    Years later when I returned to San Francisco I made visits to her classroom. She always remembered that I was Miss Johnson, who had a good mind and should be doing something with it. I was never encouraged on those visits to loiter or linger about her desk. She acted as if I must have had other visits to make. I often wondered if she knew she was the only teacher I remembered.

    Don Carlos:

    She caught the Great Black Wave and rode it. Race ist Alles.
    Better one Robert Frost than 100 self-pitying racists like Maya the self-named.

    I am not going to argue Maya as a poet, as I know little about poetry- and nothing about her poetry. You are probably correct about her poetry.

    However, when the only teacher Maya remembers, a teacher whom she praises, was a teacher who was NOT “liberal” with her, a teacher who ignored her Blackness, that does not indicate to me at all that Maya was a racist. Not at all.

    Don Carlos, have you read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

  33. waitforit Says:

    It ain’t coming straight from the heart yet. Not from either side. I have a feeling, from MA, it was getting there.

  34. waitforit Says:


  35. RickZ Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    Burkean Mama:

    I agree that her poetry was not good at all. But I think the same of the vast majority of poetry today, so she’s not really an exception.

    Poetry today is all about emotion, about feelings, free flowing streams of consciousness BS with no real rules. Writing poetry according to rules, like a sonnet, is difficult; forget about trying to write something like The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner or O Captain! My Captain! No one wants to write difficult poetry. I’ve taken a stab at poetry (more bad than good). I’ve even penned a couple that followed rhyme/meter rules. They take forever to write because you have to find the right word/words with the right rhyme/meter; you actually have to use a dictionary/thesaurus to write such poems. Again, hard work. And today, hard work is ridiculed, even denigrated. (Just look at that privileged loser/killer from CA recently in the news.)

    For me, the best poetry is humorous, which is why I am a huge Ogden Nash fan. But even he could slip into a serious, albeit now politically incorrect, subject once in a while, while still following rules.

    The Japanese (1938)

    How courteous is the Japanese;
    He always says, “Excuse it, please.”
    He climbs into his neighbor’s garden,
    And smiles, and says, “I beg your pardon”;
    He bows and grins a friendly grin,
    And calls his hungry family in;
    He grins, and bows a friendly bow;
    “So sorry, this my garden now.”

    I am also fond of poems with games hidden in them. My attempt:

    A Primer

    A brisk chill does evoke fanciful games,
    Hidden in January’s keen light.
    Many nuances often play quietly, rapidly,
    Sluiced through undercurrents,–veering wistful,
    Examining yesterday’s zeal.

  36. Ymarsakar Says:

    I think I chose William Blake over Maya A to study back in the day. Back when people had choices, at least.

  37. Don Carlos Says:

    This has been an instructive thread.

    -the commenters who indicate one should, nay must, see Angelou in the context of her race and time. Do you do that with Jefferson?

    -and those who insist the entire work must be read before one can comment on a quote from it. A quote.

    -and those who admire a literary work (or other art) while insisting that admiration is independent from knowledge of the artist’s politics, a kind of artistic myopia. That is one of the ways the Left sucks “intellectuals” in. You like the work and you’ll like the artist.

    No wonder we’re losing.

  38. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    Yes, instructive indeed.

    You are free to go on hating artists who are liberal Democrats. And calling black people racists for describing the sorrow and fear they saw as children among black people in the segregated South in 1938 when Joe Louis seem to be losing a fight, or the joy when he won.

    Some agree with you, some don’t.

    And no, of course you don’t have to have read an entire work to comment on it. But the examples (quotes) you give to illustrate your points should contain/demonstrate the thing you’re trying to say they contain.

    And memoirs often contain examples of a person’s ignorance and stupidity and errors made when young (and even when older) without the books or the person actually being ignorant or stupid, or likely to repeat the error. Memoirs often involve people learning from their errors, and descriptions of how that happened.

    And yes, I’m pretty sure most of the commenters putting Angelou in context in this thread would also put Jefferson in context.

  39. Don Carlos Says:

    Don’t hate ’em but sure don’t respect ’em either.

    I commented on the examples after quoting them.

    That I reach a different verdict than you is part of “So it goes.” Diversity!

  40. Ymarsakar Says:

    More like limitation and capping of bandwidth. Words alone cannot communicate emotion or even talk about emotion, much. There’s a strict data cap.

  41. Gringo Says:

    Don Carlos

    -the commenters who indicate one should, nay must, see Angelou in the context of her race and time. Do you do that with Jefferson?

    I see Jefferson in the context of his time, though many do not. When Jefferson wrote, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” he was struggling with the dilemma of slavery in a free country.

    -and those who insist the entire work must be read

    Rather that those who have read the whole book are better able to make interpretations of the book than those who have just read a quoted paragraph of the book. Would you claim that those who have read only a paragraph of the book are better able to interpret the book than those who have read the whole book?
    Don Carlos, here are some more questions for you.
    Was Maya Angelou’s recollection of Miss Kirwin, her teacher in San Francisco, the recollection of a racist?
    Inquiring minds want to know.
    Let’s Talk Boxing: Louis versus Schmelling:

    The classical boxing bouts that pitted American Joe Louis against Germany’s Max Schmeling symbolized the battle between the freedom of democracy against the tyranny of leftist fascism.

    The 1930s dawned with the ascendence of the Nazi-fascist dictator Adolph Hitler to power in Germany and the election of Franklin Roosevelt to the presidency in America. This set the stage for the confrontation of two vastly divergent political views in the boxing ring.

    The first match between Louis and Schmeling took place at Yankee Stadium in 1936. The fascist state considered Schmeling as a symbol of the Aryan race that was superior to all other people. Louis entered the fight with a record of 23 straight wins. Americans loved the “Brown Bomber” Louis as a hero of America. By the 12th round, Schmeling had knocked Louis to the mat and won the fight. It should be noted that Schmeling never joined the Nazi Party.

    The political row between the U.S. and Germany had heated up by 1938. Schmeling’s Nazi handler bragged that he would never be beat by a negro.

    Were white Americans justified in viewing the Schmelling/Louis fight in political terms, when the Nazi regime had also done so? If so, then why were black Americans not justified in viewing the Schmelling/Louis fight in political terms, though their interpretation of the political terms might differ from those of white Americans?
    inquiring minds want to know.

  42. Don Carlos Says:

    I never claimed to be reviewing the book or writing a book review. I responded to a quoted paragraph which I interpreted as racist. I do not see how any reader could reach any other conclusion from the language she used therein.

    Did you have to read all of Mein Kampf before making any personal response to it? Of course not.

    As to your “Were white Americans justified…?” question, you seem to postulate that the Nazis set the stage and Americans were to respond to Nazi illogic with illogic of their own: i.e., Nazis don’t like blacks, we don’t like Nazis, so we must like blacks.

  43. Nico Says:

    Stop feeding the trolls is what i say. If neo says that a[liberal dem artist] has something important/beautiful to say, then i take her at her word, and even consider buying whatever book she’s talking about. From the context it seems to me that there’s no way to say that MA’s passage about Louis is racist.

  44. Jradig Says:

    Gringo, the story about your childhood friend’s dad reminded me of this song:

    Anybody who actually thinks about the lyrics ought to be able to step back in time and get a sense of the context then.

    I’m willing to recognize MA’s talents and accomplishments, as well as her faults and the hype that she garnered.

    Thanks to NeoCon for the background.

  45. baldilocks Says:

    Obama and his puppeteers fooled a lot of persons of all colors, but most especially black persons–who are mostly on the Left, but not all.

    It seems that the puppet and his owners have fooled a lot of white conservatives also, especially about race.

    This is not racism at all, but blindness to being manipulated. For all her talents, Ms. Angelou wasn’t immune to it…and neither is anyone else.

    Thanks, Neo, for this post.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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