English 121 SL
May 9, 2012
“Graduation” was written by Maya Angelou in 1969. Angelou was born in Missouri, but after her parents divorced, she was sent to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. While in Arkansas, Angelou attended the Lafayette County Training School. The school is the setting for her essay “Graduation.” Angelou graduated from eighth grade at Lafayette with top honors and went on to graduate from high school. After high school, Angelou wrote over thirty plays, poems, children’s books, and one of her autobiographies, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (Smelstor and Bruce).
“Graduation” starts with Angelou’s generalization of a high school senior’s graduation. She describes how the entire student body, teachers, and community helps the senior class in their last weeks of school. “They came to school without their books, or tablets, or even pencils. Volunteers fell over themselves to secure replacements for the missing equipment” (Angelou 21). She describes the teachers talking to students as equals and exhibiting more respect towards them as graduation became closer. Angelou compares her school to the white high school. Her school does not have fences to mark its border, has only a few trees to give shade, and has a large area that doubles as a baseball diamond and basketball court. She explains how important the event of graduating from eighth grade is. Girls wearing new dresses if their parents can afford it, decorations hang throughout the school, and speeches are prepared are just a few examples. Angelou states that at her grandmother’s house she is the center of attention. She receives gifts and a Sunday breakfast on the Friday morning of graduation. Angelou thinks her planning and studying is finally going to pay off.
Once Angelou arrives at the school for graduation, her family takes their seats in the crowded auditorium. The school band plays a march for...