1. What leads you to believe the events described in the Preface are painful to recall?
2. At what church was the narrator performing?
3. What color was the narrator’s Easter dress?
4. How had the narrator kept her legs soft?
5. What was the line she forgot?
6. How did the children react to the narrator’s forgetting her line?
7. How did Marguerite further humiliate herself?
8. Why did the narrator believe she would be whipped?
9. Who tried to help Marguerite when she forgot her lines?
10. Why was Marguerite laughing even though she knew that she would get a whipping?
1. The narrator says that she had not so much forgotten as she had not been able to bring herself to remember.
2. The narrator was performing at the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.
3. She had a lavender taffeta dress.
4. She kept her skin soft by greasing it with Blue Seal Vaseline.
5. The line was, “I just come to tell you it’s Easter Day.”
6. The children laughed at her for forgetting.
7. Marguerite humiliated herself by wetting her pants.
8. The narrator believed she would be whipped for leaving church.
9. The preacher’s wife tried to help Marguerite when she forgot her lines.
10. Marguerite was able to laugh because of the joy of leaving the church and from the knowledge that her head would not burst from the build-up of urine.
1. What town is the setting for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?
2. How old was the narrator when she arrived by train?
3. What are the names of the two children in the chapter?
4. Why were they going to Arkansas?
5. What was the name and relation of the woman who would care for them?
6. How did the cotton-pickers described by Marguerite differ from the cotton-pickers depicted in movies and other media?
7. How did Uncle Willie make his living?
8. What was the name of the Store in Chapter 1?
9. Why did the cotton pickers stop by the store in the mornings?
10. What time did the owner of the store rise during picking season?
1. The town of Stamps, Arkansas, is the setting for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
2. The narrator was three years old when she arrived by train.
3. The two children in the chapter are Marguerite and Bailey Johnson, Jr.
4. The children were going to Arkansas since their parents had separated; they would stay with a relative there.
5. The grandmother who would care for them was Mrs. Annie Henderson.
6. In the media the cotton-pickers were depicted as laughing and singing; Marguerite, on the other hand, had seen their tiredness, their cuts, and their hopelessness.
7. Mrs. Annie Henderson and Uncle Willie ran a general store.
8. The name of the store was Wm. Johnson General Merchandise Store.
9. The cotton-pickers stopped at the store in the morning to pick up food for their lunch and to be picked up to go to the fields.
10. The owner of the Store got up at 4:00 in the morning.
1. What handicap did Uncle Willie have?
2. Who was Uncle Willie’s mother?
3. Why did his mother say he was handicapped?
4. How did Uncle Willie punish the children if they made a second mistake on their times tables?
5. Who was Marguerite’s first white “love”?
6. How did Marguerite pacify herself about Shakespeare’s whiteness?
7. Who was the poet that Marguerite and Bailey memorized?
8. What was the name of the poem that they memorized?
9. Why did Marguerite deliberately jump toward the stove?
10. Why was Marguerite not burned when she jumped toward the stove?
1. Uncle Willie was crippled; he also had a secondary handicap because he stuttered.
2. Uncle Willie’s mother was Annie Henderson.
3. Annie Henderson said that Willie was handicapped because a babysitter dropped him on his head.
4. Uncle Willie would push the children toward the dull red heater if their faltered on their times tables.
5. Marguerite’s first white “love” was William Shakespeare.
6. She pacified herself about his whiteness by “saying that after all he had been dead so long it couldn’t matter to anyone any more.”
7. The children memorized the poet James Weldon Johnson.
8. The poem they memorized was “The Creation.”
9. Marguerite deliberately lunged toward the stove to remove “the possibility of its remaining a threat.” She thought that if she could “face the worst danger voluntarily, and triumph, [she] would forever have power over it.”
10. Marguerite was not burned because Uncle Willie held tight to her dress.
1. How did Marguerite punish herself for inaccuracy in measurement?
2. Marguerite seems obsessed with a certain food. Which food is it?
3. Why did Marguerite not open a can of this food and eat it?
4. What was supper in the Store?
5. What was the dirtiest of chores that Marguerite and Bailey performed?
6. What had been the occupation of Mr. Steward?
7. Who were “the boys” that Mr. Steward referred to when he came?
8. Where did the family hide Uncle Willie after Mr. Steward’s visit?
9. Why would Uncle Willie have been found if “the boys” had come?
10. Where was Marguerite’s favorite place to be?
1. Marguerite punished herself by not eating a chocolate kiss.
2. Marguerite is obsessed with pineapple.
3. Marguerite would not open a can because the smell would remain on her hands and her actions would be discovered.
4. Supper in the Store was crackers, onions, and sardines.
5. Marguerite and Bailey’s dirtiest chore was feeding the pigs.
6. Mr. Steward was once a sheriff.
7. “The boys” were actually the Ku Klux Klan.
8. Uncle Willie was hidden in the vegetable bins in the Store.
9. Uncle Willie would have been found because he moaned all night.
10. Marguerite’s favorite place to be was the Store.
1. Whom did Marguerite consider “people”?
2. Why could whitefolks not be “people”?
3. Why did the people who did laundry pull items from the baskets to show others?
4. What meat did Mrs. Henderson buy twice a year?
5. Why did whites have fresh meat often?
6. Where did Marguerite and Bailey get meat the rest of the year?
7. What foods were preserved in Stamps?
8. Why did the men take a round bone from the ham knuckle?
9. Why was Bailey not punished often?
10. What need does every lonely child have?
1. Marguerite considered people to be those who lived on her side of town.
2. “Whitefolks couldn’t be people because their feet were too small, their skin too white and see-throughy, and they didn’t walk on the balls of their feet . . . they walked on their heels like horses.”
3. The people would take out a piece to show their talent for ironing or to show the fine things owned by their employers.
4. Mrs. Henderson bought liver twice a year.
5. Whites had meat often because they had refrigeration.
6. Bailey and Marguerite had meat from their smokehouse most of the year.
7. In Stamps anything that could be preserved was canned.
8. It “could make the meat go bad.”
9. Bailey was not punished often because he was the pride of the Henderson/Johnson family.
10. Every lonely child has “the unshaking need for an unshakable God.”
1. What were the two commandments of Mrs. Henderson?
2. What was the joke Grandmother Henderson told as she instructed the children to bathe carefully?
3. Why was Marguerite afraid to draw water at night?
4. Where must one never look to show respect?
5. What term was given to the dirty white children who had no manners?
6. What did Marguerite do to make the yard outside the Store more attractive?
7. What design did Marguerite make before the children came?
8. What design did Marguerite make after the children came?
9. What did Mrs. Henderson do while the children mocked her?
10. How did Mrs. Henderson feel after the children left?
1. “Thou shall not be dirty” and “Thou shall not be impudent” were Grandmother Henderson’s two commandments.
2. Grandma Henderson told the children to “wash as far as possible, then wash possible.”
3. Marguerite was afraid to draw water at night because she was afraid snakes might come.
4. One must never look in a person’s face if one wishes to show respect.
5. Marguerite called the dirty white children with no manners “powhitetrash.”
6. Marguerite made designs in the dirt with her rake.
7. Marguerite made fans before the children came.
8. Marguerite made concentric hearts with an arrow piercing them after the children came.
9. Mrs. Henderson stood with the upper part of her body erect and sang hymns while the powhitetrash taunted her.
10. Mrs. Henderson seemed happy with her behavior after the children left.
1. Who was the presiding elder over the district that included Stamps?
2. How often did the elder visit Marguerite’s church?
3. What was the main reason for Marguerite’s hatred of the preacher?
4. What was the good thing about the elder’s visit?
5. What did Marguerite do instead of going up to the preacher?
6. What happened to Marguerite and Bailey after they laughed in church?
7. What spoiled the breakfast on the mornings the preacher stayed with them?
8. Where did Marguerite and Bailey sit in church when the church elder came?
9. Why was Deuteronomy Marguerite’s favorite book of the Bible?...
(The entire section is 239 words.)
1. When did Mrs. Henderson marry Mr. Johnson?
2. On what subject would Mrs. Henderson give direct answers?
3. Who was Mrs. Henderson’s last husband?
4. Who was Mrs. Henderson’s second husband?
5. Who was Mrs. Henderson’s first husband?
6. Did Mrs. Henderson think that “whitefolks” could be talked to safely and reasonably?
7. Name one instance of discrimination you see in Chapter 7.
8. Why do you think Mrs. Henderson acted surprised each Sunday when she was called on to lead the singing?
9. How did “the Negroes” react to the judge’s calling Mrs. Henderson by the title “Mrs.”?
(The entire section is 245 words.)
1. How were Stamps, Arkansas, and Chitlin’ Switch, Georgia, alike?
2. What did the writer mean when she said “a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream”?
3. What was the difference between giving “in the Negro neighborhood” and the giving done by the whites?
4. What color, according to Marguerite, was God?
5. When did the “Negro community” finally realize that the Depression had come to Stamps?
6. Why did the people quit raising hogs?
7. How did Mrs. Henderson keep the Store going when the people of the community had only food from the welfare agencies instead of money?
8. Why did Marguerite think Uncle...
(The entire section is 372 words.)
1. What kind of car did Marguerite and Bailey’s father drive?
2. What had been their father’s job?
3. Why did Marguerite not want anyone to see her father?
4. How did Marguerite feel when her father watched her?
5. In later years Marguerite asked Mrs. Henderson, “Do you love me?” How did Mrs. Henderson respond?
6. How did Marguerite feel about leaving with her father?
7. Where did their mother live?
8. What “secret” language did Bailey and Marguerite speak?
9. How did Marguerite’s father treat her, according to Marguerite?
10. How did Bailey react to his mother?
(The entire section is 225 words.)
1. Grandmother Baxter is described as being a quadroon or an octoroon. What does this mean in Marguerite’s language?
2. What career did Grandmother Baxter study after coming to St. Louis?
3. From where did Marguerite think the men on the street corners had taken their names?
4. What office did Grandmother Baxter hold which gave her power?
5. What did Marguerite think was the best thing the city had to offer?
6. How did the children do academically after coming to St. Louis?
7. What was Louie’s?
8. How did Marguerite compare the teachers in Stamps with those in St. Louis?
9. What did Mother’s brothers...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
1. What shield helped Marguerite to survive in St. Louis?
2. What did it mean when Marguerite says that she sneaked away to Robin Hood’s forest?
3. What was the honor system the children had with their mother?
4. What difficulty did Bailey begin to experience in St. Louis?
5. What difficulty did Marguerite begin to experience in St. Louis?
6. What directions did Mother give the children every night?
7. How did Marguerite feel about being held by Mr. Freeman?
8. Who did Marguerite think was the greatest writer in the world?
9. What threat did Mr. Freeman make?
10. What was the first secret that...
(The entire section is 297 words.)
1. Where was Bailey when the rape occurred?
2. Who did Marguerite expect to come in while she was being raped?
3. How old was Marguerite when she was raped?
4. What book or comic strip did Bailey read to Marguerite while she was sick?
5. How did Mother know of the rape?
6. Why did Marguerite want to leave?
7. What was Mother fixing Marguerite for breakfast?
8. Where did Mr. Freeman send Marguerite after he raped her?
9. What did Mr. Freeman say he would do if Marguerite screamed as he raped her?
10. What did Mr. Freeman say he would do if Marguerite told what had happened?
(The entire section is 225 words.)
1. What did Bailey tell Marguerite that she must do in the courtroom?
2. Why did he say that Marguerite must do this in the courtroom?
3. Why did Marguerite believe Bailey when he said that he would not let Mr. Freeman kill him?
4. How did Marguerite feel about the hospital?
5.Why did Marguerite’s uncles not harm Mr. Freeman immediately when they found out what he had done?
6. Marguerite compares excitement to what?
7. How did Marguerite lie on the witness stand?
8. What was Mr. Freeman’s sentence?
9. What did the police officer say happened to Mr. Freeman?
10. What were Grandmother Baxter’s...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
1. How did Marguerite feel about the barrenness of Stamps?
2. How high did Bailey report that the buildings were in the North?
3. How did Bailey say that one could win a “zillion” dollars?
4. What dessert did Bailey say that they made in the North?
5. What term did Mrs. Annie Henderson use for a “lie”?
6. How did Bailey describe the Northern watermelons?
7. How did Marguerite feel among the people in Stamps?
8. What were the high spots in Stamps?
9. What was meant by a person being “tender-hearted”?
10. What did it mean when the customer said that Bailey had a silver tongue?
(The entire section is 272 words.)
1. Who was the person who helped Marguerite stop “sopping around the house . . . like an old biscuit”?
2. Why did Mrs. Flowers appeal to Marguerite?
3. Why was it fortunate that Marguerite never saw Mrs. Flowers in the company of powhitefolks?
4. Why was Marguerite—not Bailey—sent home with Mrs. Flowers?
5. What was the reason that a child would go home from the Store with Mrs. Flowers?
6. Why did Mrs. Henderson make Marguerite take off her dress in front of Mrs. Flowers?
7. Why did Marguerite not protest taking her dress off in front of Mrs. Flowers?
8. What did Mrs. Flowers say separated the animals from...
(The entire section is 358 words.)
1. How old was Marguerite when she went to work in a white home?
2. Who was Marguerite’s employer?
3. What was the cook’s real name?
4. What did Mrs. Cullinan call the cook?
5. What did it mean when Marguerite said that her lunch was in her mouth a second time?
6. What did Marguerite do that angered her employer?
7. Why did Marguerite break the dishes?
8. Why did Marguerite begin to come to work late and leave early?
9. Why did Marguerite not explain to Bailey what happened?
10. Who helped Marguerite decide what to do about the work situation?
1. Marguerite was...
(The entire section is 238 words.)
1. What day was always different to Marguerite?
2. Why did the farmers stop at the Store on the way to town?
3. How did Uncle Willie try to entertain the children while their parents were inside the Store?
4. What did Bailey play with the older boys while their parents were inside?
5. What did Marguerite have for breakfast on Saturday?
6. How did the children shine Uncle Willie’s shoes?
7. How did Bailey use his allowance?
8. How did Marguerite use her allowance?
9. Why did the store use electric lights on Saturdays?
10. Why was Mother Dear never mentioned to other people?
(The entire section is 218 words.)
1. How did the cotton-pickers get to the fields?
2. Why did the workers go to the tent revival even though they were tired?
3. Why did the people not talk and ask questions before the revival?
4. How many people were saved that night?
5. Which denomination was considered “hoity-toity”?
6. Which denomination was considered intellectual?
7. Why did the people look with suspicion on the Church of God in Christ?
8. Why did the Church of God say that they behaved as they did?
9. What advertisement did Texarkana’s largest Negro funeral home give out?
10. What revolutionary thing did the preacher...
(The entire section is 246 words.)
1. Why was the radio in the Store turned up as high as it would go?
2. Where did the children sit during the fight?
3. When would the real festivities in the Store begin?
4. Who came to listen to the fight?
5. Why did the coins lie on top of the cash register during the fight?
6. What type of company sponsored the fight?
7. What were some of the soft drinks sold at the store?
8. Whom did Joe Louis fight?
9. What candies were sold at the Store if the fight were particularly bloody?
10. What title did Joe Louis win?
1. The radio was high so that those on the porch...
(The entire section is 216 words.)
1. What was the biggest outdoor event of the year?
2. Name at least two social groups represented at the picnic.
3. What were some of the musical instruments found at the picnic?
4. How were the watermelons chilled at the picnic?
5. Why did Marguerite not bring a book to read?
6. Describe the bathroom facilities at the picnic.
7. Who was Marguerite’s first real friend?
8. What was the signal for Marguerite and her friend to meet?
9. What did Miss Williams say was wrong with Tommy’s valentine?
10. What language did the girls teach each other?
1. The biggest...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
1. What kind of shelter did Bailey build in the back yard?
2. What did he do there in the shelter?
3. What roles were assigned to Marguerite?
4. What was the signal that an adult was approaching?
5. The children were prohibited from going to the movies during a certain period each year. When was this time?
6. What actions did Bailey begin to exhibit away from Joyce as their love affair progressed?
7. Who was Bailey’s first love outside the family?
8. How did the community see Joyce, as evidenced by Mrs. Goodman?
9. What happened to Joyce?
10. How did Bailey convince them all that he was sick?...
(The entire section is 212 words.)
1. On what kind of night did Mr. Taylor come to visit?
2. What book did Marguerite plan to read on such a night?
3. Why would Willie encourage Marguerite to close the store early on such a night?
4. What room functioned also as a sitting room?
5. What kind of weather threatened a tornado?
6. What did Uncle Willie read at night?
7. What did the family eat that night?
8. What did Marguerite fear Mr. Taylor might do?
9. What did Mr. Taylor say that his wife was saying?
10. Where did Mr. Taylor sleep that night?
1. Mr. Taylor came on a stormy night.
(The entire section is 186 words.)
1. Why were the graduates coming to school without books, tablets, and pencils?
2. What was the name of the school from which Marguerite was graduating?
3. How many buildings composed the training school?
4. How old was Marguerite at this graduation?
5. From what grade was Marguerite graduating? What was the year of her graduation?
6. Why do you think Mr. Donleavy came to the graduation ceremony?
7. Even though Marguerite’s last name began with a “J,” she would be one of the first called at the graduation ceremonies. Why?
8. The unknown white man who came on stage took a seat which did not belong to him. Whose seat...
(The entire section is 242 words.)
1. Who did Marguerite, in her imagination, think brought her pain?
2. What food brought the pain to Marguerite?
3. What remedies did Marguerite think of to take care of the pain?
4. Who was the dentist in Stamps?
5. Where was the “nearest Negro dentist”?
6. What was the name of the Texarkana dentist that Marguerite would visit?
7. Where did they get the money to go out of town?
8. How did they get to Texarkana?
9. Why was Marguerite not afraid of the dentist in Texarkana?
10. Why did Dr. Lincoln give Mrs. Henderson the $10?
1. The Angel of the candy counter...
(The entire section is 239 words.)
1. What is the saying among Black Americans which describes Momma’s secretiveness?
2. What plan did Momma make when Bailey came home with his story of the body?
3. Where did Mrs. Henderson get the material to make Marguerite’s new clothes?
4. What did Bailey do with the body?
5. How did Uncle Willie respond to Bailey’s story?
6. How did Momma respond to Bailey’s story?
7. Why did Marguerite think that they were going to California?
8. What two promises did Marguerite make to Bailey?
9. How did they get the transportation to California?
10. Who would go to California first?
(The entire section is 270 words.)
1. How did Marguerite deal with facing Mother again?
2. Why did Marguerite feel uncomfortable about seeing her mother again?
3. Where did Marguerite sleep in the apartment?
4. Where did Mother go after getting Marguerite and Mrs. Henderson settled into an apartment?
5. What kind of friends did Mrs. Henderson make?
6. What did Mrs. Henderson do after Vivian Baxter made arrangements for the move to San Francisco?
7. How did Bailey, Vivian, and Marguerite get to San Francisco?
8. With whom did Marguerite sleep in Oakland?
9. Why did Vivian get Marguerite up in the middle of the night?
10. What was...
(The entire section is 263 words.)
1. Where did Marguerite reside in San Francisco?
2. Which population dwindled in number in San Francisco?
3. Who took over the Japanese shops?
4. Which area became San Francisco’s Harlem?
5. Who recruited the Black newcomers?
6. In what city did Marguerite first feel a sense of belonging?
7. Where had the blacks experienced concentration camp living?
8. To what creature did Marguerite compare San Francisco?
9. Why did the white matron refuse to sit by the civilian on the streetcar?
10. What did the civilian ask the white matron’s son to find for him in Iwo Jima?
(The entire section is 221 words.)
1. Describe the girls in the high school near Marguerite’s home in San Francisco.
2. Where was “T Town”?
3. What did the girls carry in their pompadours?
4. Whom did these brash girls intimidate?
5. What was the name of the first real school that Marguerite attended?
6. How well did Marguerite measure up to the other students at the first real school she attended?
7. Who was Marguerite’s favorite teacher there?
8. Where did Marguerite go on a scholarship?
9. What two classes did she take in the evening?
10. What made the California Labor School a questionable school in the eyes of some...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
1. How many rooms were in the house in which Marguerite lives in San Francisco?
2. Who was Uncle Jim’s wife?
3. How long had Daddy Clidell been to school?
4. What did Daddy Clidell teach Marguerite while her mother taught them manners, hygiene, and posture?
5. What comment did people make when Mother, Daddy Clidell, and Marguerite were seen together?
6. Who were three of the members of the Black underground that Marguerite met?
7. What is a “mark”?
8. Why were the tales all satisfying to Marguerite?
9. What did all the marks have in common?
10. What belief appeals to one who is unable to...
(The entire section is 205 words.)
1. Why did Marguerite leave San Francisco?
2. Where did she go?
3. Why did Marguerite not find Dolores at first?
4. Why did Dolores not recognize Marguerite at first?
5. What did Bailey give as an excuse for going to Mexico?
6. Why was Marguerite’s father such a good cook?
7. Why did Dolores not speak Spanish, according to Marguerite?
8.What was Marguerite’s daddy’s specialty?
9. What did the border guard on the way into Mexico say he would do with Marguerite?
10. Why was Marguerite’s father impressive to the Mexican peasants in the cantina?
(The entire section is 308 words.)
1. What was Dolores doing when Marguerite and her father returned from Mexico?
2. Why did Dolores say she was angry with Bailey, Sr.?
3. How did Marguerite feel about her father after he quarreled with Dolores?
4. Why did Marguerite feel guilty when her father left?
5. Marguerite tried to make up with Dolores. How did she see herself as she went about this task?
6. Why did Marguerite become so enraged at the thought that her mother was a whore?
7. Why did her father not take her to a hospital?
8. Why did Marguerite decide to leave the trailer?
9. What did Marguerite take with her when she ran away?
(The entire section is 349 words.)
1. Why did Marguerite not try the games of chance in the penny arcade?
2. Where did Marguerite go after she left the arcade?
3. What solution did Marguerite find for her lack of shelter?
4. What fear did Marguerite have in her new shelter?
5. What did Marguerite see upon waking up the next morning?
6. Who was the leader of the group of youth?
7. What was the rule of the group?
8. How long did Marguerite live in the group?
9. What two gifts did Marguerite receive when she decided to leave?
10. How was Lee Arthur different from the others in the group?
(The entire section is 207 words.)
1. How had the relationship between Marguerite and Bailey changed?
2. In what area were Marguerite and Bailey closer?
3. Why could Marguerite dance better now?
4. Name some of the musicians to whom Marguerite danced.
5. Name some of the dances Marguerite danced.
6. Why did Marguerite become less concerned with her mother’s reputation, community image, and good name?
7. Whose side did Marguerite take in the battle between Bailey and Mother Dear?
8. Who were Mother Dear’s friends?
9. Marguerite says that Bailey and Mother Dear were engaged in a power/love struggle. What event finally led to Bailey’s...
(The entire section is 225 words.)
1. What did Marguerite think of her room after Bailey left?
2. Why did Marguerite not run away?
3. What did Marguerite decide to do instead of staying in her room or running away?
4. How old did one have to be to work at a defense job?
5. What did Mother say when she found out Marguerite wanted to work on the streetcars?
6. What did it mean when Mother said, “Can’t do is like Don’t Care”?
7. What were the offices of the Market Street Railway Company like?
8. Why did the receptionist first say that Marguerite could not be seen?
9. Did Marguerite forgive the receptionist?
10. What three...
(The entire section is 238 words.)
1. What book in Chapter 35 influenced Marguerite?
2. Where did Marguerite buy her shoes?
3. What book did Marguerite’s mother use as a sex manual?
4. What did her mother ask for that helped Marguerite know that her bodily problems were not serious?
5. What nickname did Marguerite’s mother use for Marguerite?
6. Where had the dictionary come from?
7. Why did Marguerite decide to find a boyfriend?
8. Who did Marguerite ask to have sex with her?
9. What attitude did Marguerite have after the affair?
10. Was the affair something Marguerite enjoyed and something that made her know she was normal?...
(The entire section is 233 words.)
1. How does Marguerite feel about the pregnancy in the very beginning?
2. Who does Marguerite blame for the pregnancy?
3. Who does she inform about the pregnancy?
4. Where is Bailey when Marguerite realizes she is pregnant?
5. Why does Bailey tell Marguerite not to tell her mother about the pregnancy?
6. What does Bailey bring home to Marguerite from South America?
7. How does Marguerite feel about school as she studies during her last year?
8. Where does Vivian go during the sixth month of Marguerite’s pregnancy?
9. Why does Vivian go there?
10. What does Vivian call Marguerite at the end of...
(The entire section is 202 words.)