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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 19

Summary

This chapter opens on the night of a championship fight. Momma’s store is crowded with people listening to the radio with a personal interest, as if Joe Louis were a brother or a father. Maya thinks that the men act like their entire existence depends on Louis’ victory. In truth, they are counting on the black fighter to help dispel the notion of black inferiority. Fortunately for them, Louis lives up to their expectations by winning. After his victory, the men in Momma’s store rejoice and celebrate the fact that Joe Louis has proven that blacks are not always inferior to whites. They are not, however, eager to travel to their homes, for "it wouldn’t do for a Black man and his family to be caught on a lonely road on a night when Joe Louis had proved that (they) were the strongest people in the world."


Notes

This chapter is about identification. The narrator compellingly addresses the need of the blacks, who have been losers for so long, to identify with a winner. If Jo Louis had lost, it would have meant, in the minds of the black men, the fall of their race. It would mean "another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. It was a white woman slapping her maid for being forgetful."

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