Maya Angelou....the Graduation

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Close Reading Assignment #2 Christian Jacob

The following passage that I have submitted to a “close” analysis shows the pain and thoughts of the author as she replays the feelings she had as she is reflexing and reminded of the conditions she and other Blacks were going through.

“Then I wished that Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner had killed all the whitefolks in their beds and that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and that Harriet Tubman had been killed by that blow on her head and Christopher Columbus had drowned in the Santa Maria. . . It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. We should all be dead. I thought I should like to see us all dead, one on top of the other. A pyramid of flesh with the whitefolks on the bottom, as the broad base, then the Indians with their silly tomahawks and teepees and wigwams and treaties, the Negroes with their mops and recipes and cotton sacks and spirituals sticking out of their mouths. The Dutch children should all stumble in their wooden shoes and break their necks. The French should choke to death on the Louisiana Purchase (1803) while silkworms ate all the Chinese with their stupid pigtails. As a species, we were an abomination. All of us.” -Maya Angelou

On one of the best days of her life, Maya Angelou shares in her writing that the day of gradation was so exciting for her and her family. She talks about how rare and big it was at the time for an African American to be educated coming from generations of slavery here in the United States. During the graduation ceremony, with her family and fellow classmates, in the height of her excitement she hears a racist commencement speech by Mr. Donleavy. He...
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