Short analysis by Leah Kramer
“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.
The poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou delves into the transcendence of oppressed people in the face of adversity through a determined and fiery tone. The line “Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise” references African American people’s past slavery and how the white people suppressed them. The alliteration and sibilance amplifies black people’s previous struggles and makes their pain palpable to readers. The sibilance in “huts”, “history’s”, and “shame” sets a sinister, harsh atmosphere, demonstrating how this pain still remains. But Angelou wishes to move past the pain, to transcend the discrimination. This idea is clearly expressed in the image “black ocean”, which compares the civil rights movement to a tremendous body of water full of power. Nature is undeniable and unconquerable, just like this movement. The word “black” represents African American people’s identity and culture, expressing that their culture will be embraced and the people will move past, or above, the anguish of the past to a bright future.
To read about Maya Angelou, click here.