39 pages 1 hour read

Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1977

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Survival and Resilience

The speaker of the poem relates a message of survival and resilience in the face of ongoing and historical trauma and oppression, frequently alluding to the historical oppression that Black Americans have faced. She opens the poem by directly addressing this legacy: “[y]ou may write me down in history / With your bitter twisted lies” (Lines 1-2). The speaker spends the rest of the poem countering this biased history by describing their resilience and the survival of Black American culture as a whole. They insist on their ability to overcome by repeating the phrase “I’ll rise” throughout the poem. Their use of the word emphasizes the ongoing nature of her survival. Even in the face of these incidents, they will continue to survive.

The ability to overcome is most clearly observable in the last two stanzas of the poem where the speaker moves “[o]ut of the huts of history’s shame” (Line 29) and “[u]p from a past that’s rooted in pain” (Line 31). In doing so, the speaker is “[l]eaving behind the nights of terror and fear” (Line 35) associated with slavery, lynching, and other acts of racial violence. In the last stanza, the speaker uses the story of their personal survival to represent a collective resilience.