Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes Analysis - Essay

Maya Angelou

Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes Analysis

The dual experiences of loss and gain which are at the heart of Angelou’s autobiography are related to the book’s central concern with homelessness. Returning to what she believes is the place of her roots, her African roots, and hopeful that this place will fill the vacuum she feels, Angelou travels to Ghana with great expectations. She is joined by other black Americans who have come to this country with different motivations and who are thus categorized by Angelou in one of four different ways.

First there are the families, more than forty of them, who have come as teachers and farmers with the simple desire to become one with the country and its landscape. A second group, associated with and sent by the American government, is less warmly received, for they assume an unnatural manner and demonstrate a phony deference toward the Europeans and white Americans in the country. The third group includes a small business community seeking its fortune in the area of Accra. The fourth group, among which Angelou counts herself, is political emigres whose aspirations are grand and far-reaching:We . . . felt that we would be the first accepted[,] and once taken in and truly adopted, we would hold the doors open until all Black Americans could step over our feet, enter through the hallowed portals and come home at last.

With that kind of idealistic dream, it is not surprising that Angelou is awakened into a reality that includes doors still closed, portals still shut, and a home still elusive. One of the first disappointments is financial. Having obtained a job at the University of Ghana as an administrative assistant, Angelou expects a salary and benefits commensurate with the title and responsibilities. What she receives, however, is a salary far below that of the British employees and a position that carries with it no house, tuition, or moving allowance. Thus, one of her first hopes of Ghana—financial security—is threatened.

If that first job and salary did not teach Angelou that Ghana would not provide her with economic sustenance, her next effort at upgrading her professional position is a clear lesson: She decides to capitalize on her talents and experience as a writer by applying for a position with the Ghanian Times. The editor, T. D. Kwesi Bafoo, offers her exactly what she is receiving at the University: “the standard fee.” Angelou, however, has not come to Ghana for that kind of minimal standard; she has come for much more, and she is continually being forced to readjust her expectations, a painful process and one that leads her to yet another potential employer.

At the Ghana Broadcasting Office, she is literally prevented from entry. When Angelou persists in her efforts to gain an interview,...

(The entire section is 1130 words.)