Still I Rise Themes

The main themes in "Still I Rise" are the power of Black women, the inevitability of truth, and overcoming oppression.

  • The power of Black women: The speaker asserts that Black women are beautiful and strong, and dismisses any attempts by White people to make them believe otherwise.
  • The inevitability of truth: The speaker knows that White people write the history books and misrepresent Black people, but she firmly believes that the truth of Black power and worth will be known.
  • Overcoming oppression: The speaker overcomes every attempt by her oppressors to keep her down, highlighting the power and resilience of Black people.


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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

The Power of Black Women

Maya Angelou experienced life in a society where physical characteristics associated with White women were held up as the ideals of conventional beauty. However, the woman who narrates this poem is a Black woman who takes pride in herself, her physical appearance, and her sexuality. She holds her head high, takes pride in her "sassiness" and her confidence, and says that she dances as though she has "diamonds / At the meeting of [her] thighs." Expecting her confidence to offend or even anger her White readers, the speaker brushes all judgement aside; despite people's ability to "shoot" and "cut" her, the speaker refuses to compromise her sense of self-worth.

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The Inevitability of Truth

In the first stanza, the speaker says that she knows she will be lied about in history books written by White people; she knows that she and her race will be misrepresented and "trod" into the dirt. Nevertheless, she claims that she will rise "like dust" above this situation, despite others' efforts to contain her. She knows that she will persevere through every difficult situation, and there is victory in her relentlessness. The truth about the lies and cruelty surrounding the treatment of Black people by society will eventually be revealed; this is because the speaker intends to tell the truth herself. This poem has a tone of resilience—through every situation of "pain" and...

(The entire section contains 427 words.)

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