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The 10 Best Quotes from Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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The 10 Best Quotes from Maya Angelou's <i>I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings</i>

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

—Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird”

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Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, filmmaker and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou has inspired readers for decades with her powerful words, ensuring that her legacy will live on for generations to come. To celebrate Angelou on what would have been her 90th birthday, we’ve collected our favorite quotes from her beloved memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, below:

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“Ritie, don’t worry ‘cause you ain’t pretty. Plenty pretty women I seen digging ditches or worse. You smart. I swear to God, I rather you have a good mind than a cute behind.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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“She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”

—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Josh D. Jackson designed the quotes for this list, and you can check out more of his work here.

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