All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

by Maya Angelou
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All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoesis the fifth of Maya Angelou’s autobiographical works. Her previous four self-portraits—I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), and The Heart of a Woman (1981)—trace Angelou’s life from her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas, to her work during the 1960’s as a civil rights worker in the United States and abroad. The fifth self-portrait is both a chronological and a thematic extension of Angelou’s previous books, as it describes her four-year stay in Ghana and her effort to understand herself.

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While Angelou wears traveling shoes in all of her books, her 1986 memoir particularly attests why those shoes are necessary apparel for a woman in perpetual search of herself and of a home in which she hopes to find security and meaning. The dedication of the book and its opening epigraph suggest the work’s focus upon this search: Angelou dedicates her book to “all the fallen ones who were passionately and earnestly looking for a home.” She then uses a line from a famous spiritual to underscore the search for a home: “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.”

As the book opens, Angelou, at the age of thirty-three, has decided to pursue her quest for roots in Ghana, having recently worked in Cairo as a journalist. She embarks on her journey with excitement and anticipation, seeing it as still another adventure to add to her already adventuresome life of traveling away from and toward new people, experiences, and insights.

Joining other African Americans who have emigrated to Africa, Angelou characterizes the expatriates in four groups, all of whom came to Ghana with distinct sets of expectations. The first group of forty families came as teachers and farmers, people who wanted to become one with the land. The second group, sent by the U.S. government, came seeking the opportunity to demonstrate what they saw as their superiority to the Ghanaians. The third group, the smallest, came to create a business community in the city of Accra. The fourth group, of which Angelou counts herself a part, arrived with the hope of finding home, of finding acceptance and adoption by the people of Ghana. Describing themselves as “Revolutionist Returnees,” these people believed that Africa would welcome them and that eventually all African Americans would follow them and find security and solace among a soon-to-be-created family of black men and women.

Motivated by this search for utopia, Angelou begins her sojourn in Ghana by seeking employment, and she obtains a job at the University of Ghana as an administrative assistant. What appears to be a good beginning for her—gainful employment and the financial means to pursue her search for acceptance in her new homeland—becomes a disappointment. Her salary is far below that of the British employees, and the job carries with it no house, no tuition for her son Guy, and no moving allowance.

Deciding to upgrade her professional position, Angelou applies for a position with the Ghanaian Times, only to be told by its editor, T. D. Kwesi Bafoo, that she will be paid exactly what she is paid at the university. Still not daunted by this lack of opportunity in the country that beckoned her, Angelou goes to the Ghana Broadcasting Office, only to be prevented from entering by a rude receptionist whose manner reminds Angelou of the way in which whites treated African Americans in the United States. Beginning to see that Africa is perhaps not nirvana, Angelou nevertheless continues her quest to become at one with her adopted country.

The author has her hair styled in Ghanaian fashion, learns to speak the Fanti language, develops friendships with both Africans and transplanted Americans, and continues to reflect on her ambivalence about her new home. On the one hand, she maintains her belief in this home being large enough and hospitable enough to embrace orphans like herself; on the other hand, she is troubled by a sense that perhaps this country is not her real home.

Her ambivalence is heightened when the political situation in Ghana becomes complicated by an assassination attempt upon President Kwame Nkrumah, a leader honored by his people for his charisma and his ability to call forth a belief in African identity from his followers. The assassination attempt itself terrifies the American expatriates, but what follows is even more horrifying to them. An atmosphere of suspicion envelops the country, and the American exiles come to be viewed as infiltrators. Angelou reflects on her increasing concern that although she may have adopted Ghana, the country does not appear to have adopted her.

While still grappling with this concern, Angelou learns that W. E. B. Du Bois, the great African American leader, has died, and she ponders the significance of the death of this “first American Negro intellectual.” His death compels her to think of other notable African Americans, including Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Louis Armstrong, Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson. Memories of and gratitude for those leaders of the country she has left haunt Angelou as she and her fellow expatriates plan a march to coincide with the 1963 March on Washington to be led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Ghanaian march does not have the impact or significance its participants had hoped it would have, largely because of their growing sense of ambivalence about their place in their adopted homeland. Hearing one of the marchers jeer when a black soldier raises the American flag in front of the American embassy, Angelou notes that the jeering is actually a recognition of knowledge “almost too painful to bear”—knowledge that the Stars and Stripes is the flag of the expatriates—and, more important, their only flag.

This painful recognition persists as Angelou spends time with Malcolm X. The volatile activist, who had once been a spokesman for Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, has a profound impact upon Angelou. She had met him two years earlier, but she now sees him and hears his words from within her current context, as an orphan looking for a home and looking for reasons to stay in that home. As she observes the various personalities Malcolm X exhibits—from big brother and adviser to spokesman against oppression and for revolution—she reflects on his commitment to changing the status quo in America. When Malcolm X leaves Ghana, Angelou observes that his presence had elevated the expatriates; his departure, however, leaves them what they had been before his arrival: “a little group of Black folks, looking for a home.”

As she continues her quest for that home, Angelou dons her traveling shoes again and makes a journey to Germany to perform in a production of Jean Genet’s play Les Nègres: Clownerie (pb. 1958, pr. 1959; The Blacks: A Clown Show, 1960), in a role she had performed some years before. She combines the trip to Germany with a return to Cairo, and the long voyage helps her reflect on the constancy of some of the tensions she had been trying to avoid by coming to Africa, specifically the tension between victims and victimizers. Observing a poignant interchange between a German Jew and a Gentile, she sees the same human complexities she had seen in Arkansas and in Ghana. She realizes that such tensions are not resolved by leaving one’s home and seeking another. She returns briefly to Ghana only to leave this place of temporary security and insecurity, consolation and confrontation, pleasure and pain. She leaves, aware that home is not a place, not an external, geographical location, but an internal, psychological state. She leaves as she came: wearing her traveling shoes, like all God’s children.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

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Maya Angelou is writing perhaps the longest series of autobiographical volumes in contemporary American letters. The serial autobiography has a distinguished history, and other black Americans have written their life histories in several parts. Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright are names that come immediately to mind. What is unique about Angelou, however, is the number of autobiographical works she has produced, bringing her into the company of women who have published multivolume memoirs or diaries—women such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh or Anaïs Nin.

The form that Angelou is creating is indeed akin to memoir, but it still has the crafted, worked quality of the true autobiography. She writes with a doubleness of point of view (the narrator’s perspective at the time of the event as well as at the time of telling) and uses the telling incident to underline overall theme, as the wise teller makes sense of her life. Journals or diaries cannot do this, being written to the moment, and a memoir cannot either, since it is chronological only, usually with little attention to theme or structure and much emphasis on famous persons. What Angelou is doing is more like fiction, with her own life as raw material.

In her first volume, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), the metaphor of the cage unifies the work, beginning with the young girl who believes that she is in reality white with long blonde hair, caged in a dark skin and kinky hair, and continuing as she learns pride in being black and female from her strong grandmother and mother, both caged in a racist society. By the end, the cage is metamorphosed into Angelou’s protective arm over her newborn son; she is sixteen and unmarried.

In Gather Together in My Name (1974), the horror of drug use by loved ones is brought home in her worsening relationship with her brother and her own adventures as a single mother in the racist California of the early 1950’s. Subsequent volumes, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas (1976) and The Heart of a Woman (1981), treat more peregrinations of the intrepid traveler Angelou—a world tour with the cast of Porgy and Bess and her short-lived marriage to an exiled South African freedom fighter, residing in New York and then in Cairo. Always, however, she deals with the problem of being an outsider in her own society, and always she deals with the double jeopardy facing one who is black and female.

In All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Angelou describes her sojourn in Ghana, at a time when many black Americans were hungrily exploring their heritage, searching for “home” and the meaning of home. Visiting Accra to enroll her son Guy at the University of Ghana, she is forced to remain and must give up a new job in Liberia when he is seriously hurt in a car accident. Her adventures with the black American expatriate community, in the newly independent Ghana of Kwame Nkrumah, make stimulating reading. There are unforgettable portraits of such notables as W. E. B. Du Bois’ wife, Shirley, Malcolm X, writer Julian Mayfield, and various West African chiefs; there are even better vignettes of Angelou’s encounters with her hairdresser (who tells her fortune), her houseboy (whom she educates), and the media and journalism establishment of Ghana (which despite her wide experience wants to exploit her).

The expatriate black community in Accra is fascinating. Like such communities everywhere, it is united by its common national origin. These people would probably not be good friends if they were in the United States. Yet black Americans feel their foreignness in Africa, and they come together to talk about home and occasionally to indulge in soul food. A package of sausage to which were added greens and biscuits could bring tears. Conversation and jokes in a supportive setting, the quick wit and repartee of the black American community—this was as much a part of the home that Angelou longed for as soul food.

The present volume continues the exploration of being black and female, adding also the dimension of roots and home. Tellingly, the strength which Angelou gains in Africa comes primarily from the female side of her heritage, from Mother Africa: Her hairdresser Comfort, the women whom she meets at the university where she is employed, Efua Sutherland (the playwright and dancer), a Ewe market woman, the women who mistake her for a Bambara woman, the women with whom she shares a house—these are elements of the matriarchal tradition that sustains her. The men are famous and exciting—Malcolm X, Julian Mayfield, Nkrumah, Du Bois, Sheikhali (her French-speaking lover from Mali)—but in the end they offer little. It is from other women that she learns about herself, about Africa, and about her own need for home. The women support her when she is depressed; understand her difficulties with her son; are sympathetic when she breaks up with Sheikhali; accept her as kin and guest in the rural bush country by feeding her, taking her to the communal bath, and giving her a place to sleep.

Three incidents in the book stand out, all of them furthering the theme of home, home for black Americans. The first is the visit of Malcolm X. Malcolm X visited Ghana in the early 1960’s, right after his trip to Mecca, in the last period of his life, when he was shifting away from the separatist teachings of Elijah Muhammad and deciding that blacks and whites must work together for peace and justice. This account is a fascinating look at Malcolm’s mind in this transition period as well as the political intrigue that prevailed as the American black community in Accra tried to arrange an audience with Nkrumah. Angelou is in the center of it all, being persuaded, finally, that her place and home is not Africa; she should be back in America, carrying on the real struggle. In this case, the pivot in the situation is a woman, Shirley Du Bois.

The second incident is Angelou’s trip to Berlin to play in a production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks, with the all-black Broadway cast. The incident shows her unflinching willingness to confront the harsh ambiguities of the postwar German mentality. While there she is invited to the home of a German family, and she takes with her an Israeli actor whom she has met in the hotel. During the meal, the conversation turns to ethnic jokes, with Angelou baiting the Germans to reveal their Nazi background. Again she learns something about her own psyche and her own longing for home. She tells a Br’er Rabbit story, but a scatological and racist joke told by one of the family members makes her physically ill. At the end of the visit, his true motive is apparent; he wants Angelou to smuggle traditional artwork out of West Africa. In this incident she clearly acts as an American: No African would have been as brazen as she in hunting out the racism of her host.

The third incident provides the climax of the book. On a trip to eastern Ghana, several incidents reveal her clairvoyance and suggest a kind of racial memory. She irrationally “remembers” a bridge over a river that was notoriously unsafe in past generations; she is “recognized” by an Ewe market woman because of her facial features and six-foot height. Angelou discovers her roots, as descendant of a tribe that had been wiped out by slavery, except for a few orphan children who hid in the forest when the slavers came. It seems that Angelou has come home; she is showered with vegetables and tears from the market women. Again, it is the women who recognize her features from generations back—women who have preserved the history of that lost group through their telling and retelling, women who try to make restitution for the sins of their fathers by readopting Angelou into their midst. Finally, however, this is not home; she does not know even a single word in the local language.

As a result of this incident, Angelou understands more clearly than ever where she belongs. Yes, she is African, but she is American too, and home is in the United States. She decides to return to America to take part in the struggle for equality, to become a part of Malcolm’s organization. She understands, finally, that the role of an expatriate, even a black American expatriate, is not for her. As she says, “Many of us had only begun to realize in Africa that the Stars and Stripes was our flag and our only flag, and that knowledge was almost too painful to bear.”

The book is interestingly structured, with no chapter divisions, only section breaks for each vignette. This technique makes the text flow more easily, suggesting the art of a griot, or traditional West African storyteller. The metaphors used in the descriptions, however, often seem forced and not as organic as in earlier Angelou works. Similes such as “arguments as pointed as broken bones” and “like a rain forest on a moonless night” jump out at the reader and add little to the text. Perhaps this writing was done quickly, with little revision.

In any case the reader’s mind is stimulated by Angelou’s depiction of the West African scene and by her honest analysis of the thorny problem of identity for black Americans. Home, learns Angelou, is not in Africa, although it takes Africa to teach her about home.

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Though she is known for many things—writing poetry, acting, directing, dancing—Maya Angelou is probably most famous for her autobiographies, of which All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes is the fifth. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), and The Heart of a Woman (1981) relate Angelou’s beginnings in Stamps, Arkansas, and depict her internal and external journeys leading to Ghana, the primary locale of All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. Collectively, these self-portraits portray, as the title of the fourth volume suggests, the heart of this woman; individually, each demonstrates the autobiographer’s effort to tell her story in a prose form that frequently is poetic and musical.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes begins with a sensitive description of Ghana: “The breezes of the West African night were intimate and shy, licking the hair, sweeping through cotton dresses with unseemly intimacy, then disappearing into the utter blackness.” This prose is made more dramatic by the structure of the book: Short sections of mostly description, lacking chapter titles or numbers, emerge as virtual vignettes of a country Angelou chooses as her own because, as she writes, she has been searching for a safe haven, a home: “We had come home, and if home was not what we had expected, never mind, our need for belonging allowed us to ignore the obvious and to create real places or even illusory places, befitting our imagination.” The book examines this quest for home, this imaginative creation of a place both on a map and not on a map, a real country and Angelou’s hoped-for and dreamed-of place.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes includes anecdotes about visitors to Ghana such as Malcolm X, the black American activist; about natives of Ghana such as Efua Sutherland, the head of Ghana’s National Theater; and about the country of Ghana, including its bureaucratic structures such as the University of Ghana, where Angelou worked as an administrative assistant. Most of all, it is the story of a search, which, like most journeys, involves both disillusionment and enlightenment.

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All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes is the fifth in Maya Angelou’s multi-volume series of autobiographies that began with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). That first volume treated her girlhood in Arkansas; this one takes up her life as an adult with her grown-up son in Africa, where she seeks her African roots. A book about heritage, it is also about the competing demands on a woman who is mother, artist, lover, and expatriate.

After beginning with a brief explanation why she and her son, Guy, are in Africa—so that he might enroll at the University of Ghana at Accra—Angelou then describes her anxiety when he is seriously injured in an automobile accident. Although traumatic, this event is fortuitous because it is the reason that Angelou decides to remain in Accra rather than go on to Liberia, where she has been promised a job. Angelou devotes most of the rest of the book to a physical as well as emotional exploration of her relationship to Ghana as a member of the African diaspora.

Angelou soaks up Africa like an eager sponge. She is the beneficiary of its healing power, is impressed by its respect for human life and differing customs, and longs to possess the Africans’ deep sense of self-appreciation. Along with her exhilaration in discovering Africa, however, comes self-doubt. She wonders if she or any African American can ever achieve the sense of rootedness—of belonging to the same soil as their ancestors—that even the lowliest African feels. African Americans, she writes, “wore the skeletons of old despair like necklaces . . . and we were branded with cynicism.”

Her ambivalence about Africa is shared by a group of African American friends in Ghana, political émigrés who have left the United States because they despair of ever achieving justice there. Arriving with high expectations, these prodigals are downcast when the Ghanaians regard them with indifference and sometimes condescension. Their disillusionment is further exacerbated by “the old anguish,” the nagging reminder that “not all slaves were stolen, nor were all slave dealers European.” Although they organize a march on the U.S. embassy in Ghana to support the Civil Rights march on Washington, the expatriates are impatient with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tactics. On the other hand, they are uplifted by a visit from Malcolm X on his return from Mecca. His plan to take African Americans’ grievances to the United Nations inspires them.

In addition to the political aspects of Angelou’s life, the autobiography raises personal issues. She describes her affair with Sheikhali, who resembles her romantic conception of African kings—tall, dark, and sublimely handsome. Although he showers her with gifts and offers to make her his second wife, she firmly rejects his proposal. As an African American woman, she is accustomed to planning her own life and maintaining her independence. The autobiography also explores Angelou’s anxieties as a mother as Guy begins to seek independence from her. It is difficult for her to accept his wanting to pay for his own college education and his decision to date a woman twice his age. This breaking away is a shock because her life had for so long been defined by his.

Angelou’s artistic life also receives attention. As a kind of interlude about three-quarters of the way through the book, she recounts a trip to Germany in which she performs in a play with other black actors, among them Louis Gossett, Jr., James Earl Jones, Cecily Tyson, and Roscoe Lee Browne. She describes her joy at being among African Americans and joining in behaviors that she did not see among Africans, such as the rueful laughter and the sarcasm that African Americans have developed over the centuries to resist oppression.

Angelou gives the sense, in this book, of being on the cusp of history. Not only is she deeply interested in the American Civil Rights movement and the rise of independent black African states, but she also shows her awareness of the issues raised by World War II. After the play, she is invited to dine with a German named Dieter and to choose a friend to accompany her. Suspecting everyone in Germany of having complicity in the Holocaust, she decides to put her host on the spot by selecting Torvash, an Israeli actor, to accompany her. During the meal, she asks everyone to supply a joke by which they can better understand one another. The stories told are complex and allegorical, and Angelou is sickened by the animosity implicit in the jokes of the Jewish and German men.

Angelou skillfully uses structural devices to emphasize her central theme, the discovery of her identity as the descendant of African slaves. The persistent question throughout the book is how to reconcile the legacy of slavery with a desire to find roots in her ancestors’ homeland. The book is structured around two travels to the outer regions of Ghana, away from the large city of Accra, which help to answer that question. The first, occurring about halfway through the work, is to Dunkwa, where she is mistaken for a member of the Bambara tribe and welcomed into the homes of the villagers. Her explanation to a villager of Dunkwa that she is “a stranger” is met with disbelief, for to Africans every person of black skin belongs in Africa.

The second trip, to Keta in eastern Ghana, occurs at the end of the book and acts as the climax of the story. Stopping for gas in Cape Coast, Angelou observes the castles where slaves were held before being transported to America. Then, as she approaches Keta, she has several uncanny presentiments that suggest that her ancestors may well have been from that very village. She meets an Ewe woman who believes that Angelou must be one of the descendants of their kidnapped forebears. Angelou learns that Keta was hit hard by the slave trade and that it was rebuilt by children who hid in the forest and watched their parents being taken away.

Angelou skillfully employs comparison to build the climax. She remarks that the first Ewe woman she meets, with her wide face, slanted eyes, beautifully shaped lips, and high cheekbones, looks very much like Angelou’s grandmother. When the village women put their hands to their heads and mourn, it reminds her of her grandmother’s admonition that such a gesture was bad luck. Using comparison and allusion, Angelou suggests heartfelt connections between herself and this African village.

At the end of the book, Angelou waits to board a plane for America, surrounded by her son and friends at Accra airport. Guy is firmly planted among the Ghanaians, and she is content to let him live his own, independent life. At Malcolm X’s urging, she has agreed to bring her knowledge of Africa home to African Americans. She returns to work for his Organization of Afro-American Unity with a firmer sense of Africa’s being a part of herself, declaring that “my people had never completely left Africa.”

Context

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The title of The Heart of a Woman (1981), the autobiography that preceded this one and the fourth in the series, provides a clue to understanding All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. In many respects, this book continues the story of the multilayered heart of an African American woman. Angelou is a mother, anxious about her child’s maturing and growing away from her. She is a political émigré, intensely interested in the racial politics of her time. She is an artist, describing the ambivalence of performing before white Europeans and black African kings. She is an African American, yearning to feel a part of her motherland. One of a distinguished line of autobiographical writers that includes Harriet Jacobs and Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou seeks to unify the disparate roles that African American women have had to play and to reconcile the often-painful elements in her consciousness with a positive sense of her own identity.

Literary Techniques

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The writing in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes is consistently professional, rich, and full, reflecting Angelou's usual poetic texture. There is a polish to the writing in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes that exceeds her previous books. Oft-quoted sections on the bridge and castle walls and on Dunkwa are especially moving. Her descriptive passages are vivid and captivating. To provide variety and to keep reader interest, Angelou sprinkles in jokes and poems. This book includes more weighty insights than usual and these are carefully balanced with lighter sketches. Flashback is utilized on occasion and many passages are independent and could be inserted at different points.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes seems quieter in tone than its preceding stories. It takes place in another country, but contains a strong sense of home and a rediscovery of homeland. There is not the constant shifting from pillar to post mandated by life in Angelou's other books. There is much quiet reflection, and introspection. This is an ending — to dependent son relationship, to exile, to blind prejudice. But every sunset is followed by a new day, and every ending sets the stage for a new beginning. Angelou's faithful audience awaits her next report on her new life in her old world.

Social Concerns

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Maya Angelou's two years in Ghana in the early 1960s provide the material for the fifth book in her continuing autobiography. The title, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), is an obvious play on the popular spiritual, "All God's Chillun Got Wings." A clever reference to the ongoing search for place is couched in terms mindful of the black's ultimate home. Living in Ghana when she was in her mid-thirties — a mature woman — she wrote this book when she was in her mid-fifties.

Critics greeted All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes with generally kind remarks. The New York Times cited Angelou as "one of the geniuses of Afro-American serious autobiography." Library Journal said the book makes for "absorbing reading," and that her prose sings, just as it did in her memoirs. In addition, readers of All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes will discover "a wealth of information and penetrating impression of the proud, optimistic new country" of Ghana. Angelou read the entire manuscript to her close friend, the late Julian Mayfield, who verified the book's accuracy, other than questioning the mention of a British involvement in the assassination attempt on Nkrumah.

Angelou's purpose in writing All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes is to report her responses to the events she encounters during her sojourn in Ghana. Of primary interest is her ongoing quest for a place, a home, a sense of belonging. She joins with a group of prominent black activist expatriates of the 1960s. They, too, are seeking to nurture and be nurtured by mother Africa. Angelou keeps an "eye on her son but not her thumb." She integrates herself into local life and reflects deeply on Ghana. As in each of her books, she finds romance, this time transient and amusing. Although the incidents are autonomous, there is both chronological and thematic linkage. Two themes continue to be urgent to her: racism and her son's well being, the latter a reflection on her success as a mother. She discovers a racism of black to black as she explores Ghana: its problems, its traditions, its struggle to obtain economic independence, and its attitude toward black immigrants, particularly those from America. There emerges a class delineation loosely based on an "I'm more African than you" attitude.

The theme of racism has always been prominent in Angelou's books. In All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, she opens her eyes to the prejudices among various black groups and faces the realization that racism is not the exclusive domain of whites. She examines her own prejudices after an uncomfortable social gathering in Germany, and undergoes a change of attitude.

In addition to the issue of racism, Angelou constantly expresses concern about her success as a mother. She dwells at length upon the development of her son into a man. Angelou feels that if she fails as a mother, all else has no meaning.

Bibliography

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Baker, Houston A., Jr. “Part Five: Into Africa.” The New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1986, 14. Situates Angelou’s autobiography within the American tradition of multiple-volume self-portraits. Notes that such writers as Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Chester Himes have contributed to this kind of serial autobiography by writing about the ways in which spirit and courage can overcome oppression. In her memoirs, Angelou does likewise, and Baker notes that the very titles of her books suggest Angelou’s concern with the dreams of freedom and home.

Blundell, Janet Boyarin. Review of All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, by Maya Angelou. Library Journal 111 (March 15, 1986): 64. Examines Angelou’s memoir as a chronicle of her experience in Ghana and also as an exploration of Angelou’s maternal emotions as she watches her son Guy grow to manhood. Notes that Angelou’s self-portrait sheds light on both emerging Africa and the African American community.

Coleman, Wanda. Review of All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, by Maya Angelou. The Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 13, 1986, 4. Argues that Angelou’s work is different from celebrity autobiographies, which are typically self-aggrandizing. Instead, Angelou writes carefully and sensitively about herself and the African American community, weaving adages and bits of folk and street wisdom into her self-portrait.

Neville, Jill. “Bubbling Over.” The Times Literary Supplement, August 28, 1987, 922. Criticizes Angelou’s memoir for its “airy prose” and tendency toward “sentimental black agit-prop.” Neville acknowledges the readability of Angelou’s self-portrait but praises her first two memoirs as her best and views her recent books as less compelling.

Sankara, Edgard. “Race, Hybridity, and Multiculturalism in Maryse Condé’s Heremakhonon and Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes.” In Multiculturalism and Hybridity in African Literatures, edited by Hal Wylie and Bernth Lindfors. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2000. Examines the representation of hybrid identity in Angelou’s work, emphasizing the intersection of Africanness and Americanness.

Stuttaford, Genevieve. Review of All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, by Maya Angelou. Publishers Weekly 229 (February 21, 1988): 159. Points to the moving quality of Angelou’s writing insofar as it probes the disillusionment, homesickness, and hurt that Angelou experiences in Ghana.

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