“And Still I Rise..”

The U.S. Mint has unveiled a new version of its quarter depicting celebrated African-American author Maya Angelou as a young woman with outstretched arms in front of a bird in flight and a rising sun. She is the first Black woman to have her likeness featured on a select batch of 25-cent coins to be rolled out this year.

Angelou’s image is inspired by her personality and work. The design on the piecestrikes an emotional resonance with her memories best penned in her acclaimed memoir, I Know Whythe Caged Bird Sings ( 1969). Her son, Guy Johnson, told the media the image symbolises his mother reaching up which fit her spirit. It also brings out the message of gender equality in leadership. Angelou highlighting adream to live an equal life in 21st century America’s racial and ethnic politics, is an evocative expression of black identity. She celebrated the strength and integrity of black women, and her own story of growing up with struggles and successin a radically segregated society, appeals. Angelou’s seven-part autobiography spanning three decades, pivots on daily sufferings, longings of lonely children, the ache of abandonment, humiliation and survival. The protagonist’s desire to break free and sing of freedomdrivesa contemporary reverberation because as history shows, no time has been or is ever easy for those subjugated. Angelou remained unapologetic in reminding what life is like in a society that tolerates discrimination. She wrote Letter To My Daughter (2009), a collection of essays and poems, to the daughter she never had but saw all around her. Her powerful life lessons and stories of profound love, growth and healing are for every woman to lead a meaningful life without fear.

Angelou’s son has wished that Ida B. Wells gets the next honour on paper money. The investigative journalist’s writings showed the world how the Afro-American race was more sinned against than sinning. She examined accounts of lynching which was used as a tool to terrorise the blacks and enforce second-class status on them. She published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1892) and The Red Record( 1895), exposing the alarmingly high rates of lynching which peaked between 1880 and 1930 in the U.S. Ida’s unfinished autobiography started in 1928, was later edited by her daughter and posthumously published in 1970 asC rusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. S he received the 2020 Pulitzer special citation for her courageous reporting on black peoples’ struggles in the American south since the civil war.

A victim of white hostility, Toni Morrison’s nuanced writings on the crushing experience of Black women in an unjust society strikes a chord. The first African-American woman Nobel Laureate in Literature (1993), Morrison authored 11 novels and essay collections that reflect the vicious pain inflicted on the vulnerable by a racialised society. Her debut novel The Bluest Eye (1970) follows a young girl bullied for her dark skin and made to feel unloved. She prays for the miracle of blue eyes —identified with white American beauty, but is horrificallytraumatised by others for her unbecoming desire. Morrison’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, is about a runaway slave haunted by her memories of the psychological trauma she experienced escaped in the wake of the American Civil War. Morrison’s characters struggle to find their cultural identity but her poetic and rich inter-weaving of words lend a unique texture and pathos to her context and style.

American journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010) and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020), Isabel Wilkerson was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer in journalism. She poignantly documented the stories ofThe Great Migration that witnessed thousands of African Americans shifting from southern States to the urban northeast, midwest and the west between 1916 and 1970, and identified racial hierarchy in the U.S. as a caste system.Outspoken advocates of truth, these women of substance enlarge our vision and imagination. Their words are charged with pain but it is hope that fills their writings.

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 12:46:44 pm |