Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
About the Poem
“Still I Rise” is an empowering poem about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice. It is one of Maya Angelou’s most popular poems. The poem is an anthem, a beacon of a clear, repeated message of hope. No matter the circumstances, there must always be hope to cling to.
This is a poem that is best read out loud. This is an intro and recording of the author reciting this poem:
About the Author
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She grew up in Missouri and Arkansas. She was an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist. She was best known for her seven autobiographical books, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In one of its most powerful and controversial parts, Angelou describes how she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was just 7 years old. When the man was murdered by her uncles for his crime, Angelou felt responsible, and stopped talking. Angelou remained mute for 5 years, but developed a love for language.
In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., asked Angelou to become the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1961 to 1962 she was associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. From 1964 to 1966 she was feature editor of the African Review in Accra, Ghana.
Gerald Ford appointed her to the Bicentennial Commission. Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. She accepted a lifetime appointment in 1982 as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. In 1993, Angelou wrote and delivered a poem at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton at his request. In 2000, she received the National Medal of Arts. In 2010 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou wrote, produced, directed, and starred in productions for stage, film, and television. She wrote screenplays, musical scores, and authored a television miniseries. Angelou wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including “Afro-Americans in the Arts,” a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. She was nominated for a Tony award for acting for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1973), and again for her performance in Roots (1977).
Angelou died on May 28, 2014, in North Carolina, where she had served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. She was 86.