What Is the Theme of “Still I Rise”?

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“Still I Rise” is a poem by Maya Angelou that speaks to her ancestor’s origins as slaves and her personal resilience in the face of opposition. “I rise” and variations of it are repeated throughout the poem to show that nothing can stand in her way.

The stanza that summarizes the poem’s message is the fourth from the end, and it says, “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.” This showcases Angelou’s message. She is a fighter, and nothing that is said about her or done to her will limit her or stop her from pursuing her dreams and speaking her mind. The poem is written in four line stanzas and follows an A, B, C, D rhyming scheme.

Maya Angelou was born in 1928 and died in 2014. She is recognized as an acclaimed American poet, activist, autobiographer and ultimate storyteller. She also became Hollywood’s first female black director and she worked as a singer, dancer and actress. She also worked for both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X as a civil rights activist. Angelou was often considered a spokesperson not just for black people, but for all women.