Maya Angelou’s intention with the poem “Still I Rise” is to speak to those who oppress, and to those who are oppressed. She begins the poem addressing the ubiquitous “you.” Although her message is universal, it is addressed directly to those who caused oppression for African-Americans, and in particular, African-American women.
Angelou writes from her perspective as an African-American woman who endured unthinkable acts and cruelty, yet she enabled herself, through her inner strength, to “rise above” and prosper. She does not ignore, or minimize her tribulations, but instead she humanizes them.
The poem asks tough questions of the audience. The author wants to know if her “sassiness” is offensive, or her “haughtiness” unnerving. Through her words, she speaks to humanity, not only for herself, but for her ancestors, the slaves. She will not be kept down by others' actions, words, or deeds, instead she will be sexy, sassy, and strong.
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.
Although Maya Angelou’s intention was to address those who feel it is their right to oppress others, she is also demonstrating the strength of African Americans, especially women, to “rise” above circumstances, situations, and people who strive to negatively affect their lives.
In essence, her message becomes universal to all people who are striving to prosper in spite of bigotry and prejudice, whatever the reason.