All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

by Maya Angelou

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What could "The breezes of the West African night were intimate and shy" in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes mean?

Quick answer:

One possible meaning that can be attached to the statement "The breezes of the West African night were intimate and shy" is that West Africa is much more welcoming to African Americans than the United States, where racial prejudice is rampant.

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In order to answer this question, we need to look at the full paragraph from which this quotation comes.

The breezes of the west African night were intimate and shy, licking the hair, sweeping through cotton dresses with unseemly intimacy and then disappearing into the utter blackness. Daylight was equally insistent, but much more bold and thoughtless. It dazzled, muddling the sight. It forced through my closed eyelids, bringing me up and out of a borrowed bed into brand new streets.

Angelou's luscious depiction of evening and morning in Ghana is not just descriptive; it's intended to convey to the reader how she's become seduced by life in Africa, a place that comes to feel more like home than home itself. The sensuous language employed in this excerpt reveals the almost physical connection that Angelou has forged with her ancestral homeland. As well as being physical, this connection is also spiritual, an intimate joining together of souls. West Africa loves Angelou, and she loves it back.

The feeling of oneness with her surroundings stands in stark contrast to the isolation that Angelou feels when she's in the United States. In the midst of a society riddled with racial prejudice and oppression, she never feels accepted. Separated from mainstream society by racism, Angelou has never felt the kind of intimacy with her physical surroundings that she enjoys in West Africa.

In Ghana, it's a different matter entirely. Here, for the first time in her life, Angelou feels like she belongs, that she's accepted for who she is as a person and that her Black skin is treated as perfectly normal.

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