Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

Published in 1983 in Maya Angelou’s poetry collection Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing, “Caged Bird” is about the experiences and life views of a free bird versus a caged bird. The metaphor of the two birds illustrates the difference between privilege and power, and suffering and resilience. It also symbolizes the difference between African Americans and white people during the Civil Rights Movement.

Student Activities for Caged Bird

Essential Questions for "Caged Bird"

  1. What is the caged bird’s life like? How is it different from a free bird’s life?
  2. What are the themes of this poem?
  3. How is this poem similar to a Black person’s life during times of segregation?

Maya Angelou

Born on April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Annie Johnson, Maya Angelou was an American poet, civil rights activist, and writer. She has written seven autobiographies/autobiographical fiction, which focus on her childhood and life as a young adult. Angelou had a difficult childhood and suffered horrible abuse at age 8 that led to her not speaking for almost 5 years. It was during this time that she discovered her love of books and words and her ability to remember things and take in the world around her. As a young adult, she danced and sang. She also changed her name to Maya Angelou, as it was more distinct and memorable. Angelou was an active part of the Civil Rights movement, and was close with Malcom X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She died on May 28, 2014 at the age of 86.

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Frequently Asked Questions about "Caged Bird"

What is “Caged Bird” about?

“Caged Bird” is about 2 birds: one is free and the other is in a cage. The poem is about how different their life experiences are.

What do the birds symbolize in the poem?

The birds symbolize the difference between African Americans and whites during the Civil Rights Movement era. They also symbolize life as someone with privilege and power versus life as someone who is suffering and must be resilient.

What other poems has Maya Angelou written?

Some of Maya Angelou’s other famous works include:

  • “Still I Rise”
  • “Awakening in New York”
  • “Phenomenal Woman”
  • “On the Pulse of Morning”
  • “The Mothering Blackness”
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