All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

by Maya Angelou

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What is the writer's purpose in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes?

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The writer's purpose in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes is to show that a sense of security comes from within. Initially, Maya Angelou thinks that it can come from a geographical location, which in her case means Africa. But in due course, she comes to realize that she can only feel secure if she's secure in herself, not in a specific part of the world.

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In All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes Maya Angelou sets out in considerable detail a personal and spiritual journey to self-awareness. This journey constitutes a fascinating story in its own right, one that the author feels needs to be shared.

In doing so, Angelou imparts the wisdom she acquired from this significant part of her life. During these years, she went to Ghana in West Africa, the land of her ancestors. In making this journey, she hoped to be able to get in touch with her ethnic roots, with the African heritage her ancestors were forced to leave behind.

Initially, all is well. Angelou revels in an environment free from the rampant bigotry and racial prejudice she constantly faces back home in the United States. In this country, where just about everyone is Black, the color of her skin is not a problem.

And yet, over the course of her three-year stay in West Africa, Angelou becomes increasingly disillusioned with her ancestral homeland. Although the color of her skin may not be a problem, she remains an outsider in Ghanaian society, which leads to her being ignored by the very same people with whom she thought she could forge a connection based on a common ethnic heritage.

As a consequence of her experiences in Africa, Angelou comes to understand that the sense of security for which she had been searching for so long can only be found within oneself and not in any precise geographical location.

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What is the main point of "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes"?

What you are referring to - the main point - is also known as the theme of a story.  There can be many themes in a story, or many messages that an author expresses while he/she writes.  Some are more developed than others, and so are considered the "main" themes.

This book deals with racism, nationalism, personal integrity, motherhood, personal identity.. just to name a few.  One of the "main" themes, though, is the need for acceptance.  Every human being needs to feel that he/she is accepted in some part of the world.  Angelou travels to Africa searching for a place where others would look as she did and feel as she did.  She wanted to be free from discrimination and to be a central part of a society, not a minority. 

However, what she experiences when she arrived is another theme - that discrimination exists everywhere.  Angelou realizes that the Ghanians are protective of their land and their own community.  She is an interloper, and thus can not be a central figure in their already established society.  They resent her assumptions and assume that she can not understand them and their ways.  This resentment even makes Angelou question the causes of discrimination in America:

"Had what we judged as racial prejudice less to do with race and more to do with our particular ancestors' bad luck at having been caught, sold and driven like beasts?"

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