What effect does the author's use of direct quotation ("champion of the world" in chapter 19) have on her narrative in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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Maya Angelou quotes the radio announcer in order to take readers back to the significant moment in Maya's life and history when African American boxer Joe Louis defeated Max Schmeling and remained heavyweight champion in 1938. By including radio quotes, readers are reminded of how radio technology connected the entire world to this match. Readers imagine the announcer's voice through sentences paced in a way that furthers the suspense:

Here's the referee. He's counting. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven . . . Is the contender trying to get up again?

By providing play-by-play details, readers become part of the scene. They can visualize young Maya and everyone in the store listening raptly to the announcer's words. The announcer's words are spelled phonetically, allowing readers to imagine his accent and establishing a clearer picture of the scene:

The winnah, and still heavyweight champeen of the world . . . Joe Louis.

Joe Louis was celebrated by all American people and became a hero among the country's black population. Facing poverty during the Depression and the era of the Jim Crow laws, this was perceived as a monumental victory for African Americans.

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In Chapter 19, Angelou directly quotes the commentator of the famed boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Historically, this fight was important for two reasons: Louis was a black American, and Schmeling was a white German - in the late 1930s. People saw it as a victory of the USA over the Nazis, and for the African American population, viciously segregated and mistreated, it was a huge step in the (still continuing) dialogue on race in America. 

If, in this scene, Angelou had simply described what happened in the fight and during the listeners' scene, the reader would understand the events. However, by using the direct quotations and integrating descriptions of the sights, smells, and appearances of the rapt audience, the reader becomes a part of the scene. The reader is not learning about what happened - the reader is experiencing the fight with Angelou and her community. 

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