Representing Dissent through Poetry: A Study of Select Poems of Maya Angelou

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Dr. Sahar Rahman


Literature in general and protest poetry in particular have been vocal about human condition and problems. This article examines Maya Angelou’s representation of dissent in selected poems, using the historical and socio-political context of her life as a lens. It analyses how Angelou’s work, including “Still I Rise,” “Caged Bird,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and some others, articulates resistance against racial, gender, and social inequalities. Through her powerful metaphors, repetitive phrases, and vivid imagery, Angelou defied societal norms and called for change. The study concludes by emphasizing Angelou’s enduring impact and legacy, not just in literature, but also in shaping civil rights discourse and inspiring social change. Her poetry exemplifies how art can be a potent instrument of protest. The article employs language for ‘writing back’, questioning norms, resisting atrocities and creating scope for change. Protest poetry, which is deeply embedded in American history, remains a prominent part of English literary corpus, contributing greatly to African American literature. The category of African American protest poetry is large owing to the huge expanse of time during which it has been written and also because of the great number of poets who have contributed to this form of writing. As a result, African American protest poetry is divided into three sub-categories– the first deals with protest during slavery, the second during segregation and Jim Crow Laws and the third after political obstacles to equality were presumably removed. This paper aims to deliberate on the following questions— what are the prominent themes of African American protest poetry? How have the African American poets used this genre of literature variously during different historical epochs? How are the concerns of female poets different from their male counterparts? What role has protest poetry played in political movements against inequality, social injustice, oppression, segregation etc.? The present paper aims to engage with this seemingly broad area of literature from the feminist and racial perspectives. The paper intends to deal with few important African American protest poets from foundational poets to the contemporary ones.


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How to Cite
Sadaf, and Dr. Sahar Rahman. “Representing Dissent through Poetry: A Study of Select Poems of Maya Angelou”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 8, no. 3, June 2023, pp. 84-90, doi:10.53032/tcl.2023.8.3.10.
Research Articles


Angelou, Maya. “Harlem Hopscotch.” Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.

---“Phenomenal Woman.” Poetry Foundation. Accessed 2 Jan. 2023.

--- “Still I Rise.” Poetry Foundation. Accessed 2 Jan. 2023.

---. “When You Come.” Poem Hunter. Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.

Harris, Trudier. “African American Protest Poetry.” Freedom’s Story, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center.

<>. Accessed 17 Dec.2022.