What does Angelou mean when she says, "Out of the hut of history's shame / I rise. / Up from a past that's rooted in pain / I rise"?

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As a black woman, Angelou acknowledges a world that has tried (and still does try) to render people of color powerless. She says, in the last stanza, "I am the dream and the hope of the slave." Instead of being powerless, as slaves were, she is empowered. The slaves, who were powerless in the face of their white masters, were forced to live in huts and endure lives that were "rooted in pain." This narrator, however, has "rise[n]" from this powerlessness in the past, and she can now be "sassy" and confident and hopeful and strong and "haughty" and "sexy" all at once. She will not be made to cower in fear, despite the expectations of the white people around her. Instead, she "rise[s]" from a painful past, aware of white society's prejudices and expectations but living her life her own way, by her own rules: she may spring from a painful past, but she looks forward to a hopeful future.

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Maya Angelou is addressing the pain of slavery. She has had to overcome the historically-entrenched oppression and cruelty inflicted on Africans. It is this dark past that her ancestors had to endure, and now she has also found a way to “rise” above the collective pain. In the poem, she has found a new sense of awareness and has become a black woman who has risen above "history's shame." It is a poem of self-discovery and passion as she taunts her readers to come to grips with who she has become. Angelou feels that she will not fall victim to further discrimination because she has found her true worth as a black woman. No one will ever be able to subjugate her again because she has risen above the hatred and pain of history.

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