Who is the speaker in Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise"?

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While not necessarily identical with the poet, the speaker of "Still I Rise" is a confident, resilient Black woman with a similar background to that of Maya Angelou.

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The poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou is spoken by a first person narrator who is not explicitly named in the poem. The poem is in the shape of a speech by the narrator to an also unnamed "you."

Both the diction of the poem and contextual information about its author and when it was written suggest that the "I" is intended to be a black woman. The references to a slave past suggest that the poem is about African-American descendants of slaves, rising up from a history of oppression in the United States. The "nights of terror and fear" suggest lynch mobs. Many of the dialectical features of the poem also suggest African-American English.

There are several ways the poet indicates gender. The term "sassiness" is one applied almost exclusively to women. The images of the speaker dancing and having diamonds between her thighs also suggests a black woman rising above sexual and racial oppression.

The reason for the speaker not being fully individuated is that the poet probably intends the "I" to represent a potentially universal experience of black women rather than the particular experience of some individual black woman.

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Who is the speaker in "Still I Rise"?

The speaker of "Still I Rise" is a powerful, resilient Black woman. Since these words might also be used to describe the poet, Maya Angelou, many readers naturally assume that Angelou is speaking for herself. However, from the internal evidence of the poem, one can only say that the speaker is someone who has several points in common with Maya Angelou and no outstanding points of difference.

The speaker is clearly Black. Her race becomes more important and explicit toward the end of the poem, when she mentions her ancestors, alongside "the dream and the hope of the slave," and refers to herself as a "black ocean." The lines that describe the speaker as dancing "like [she's] got diamonds / At the meeting of [her] thighs" also strongly suggest that she is female.

The speaker's greatest attributes are resilience and confidence. There is no indication that she is wealthy, but she acts with the hauteur of great wealth, as though she has oil wells in her living room and goldmines in her backyard. This suggests that her demeanor is flamboyant and perhaps even arrogant, or at least that this is how she is perceived by people who feel that her social position does not merit such confidence.

Maya Angelou's literary achievements gave her a similar confidence, though they also made her rich and famous, which the speaker may not be. Whether she is or not, she refuses to accept the inferior position society wishes to impose on her.

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