By C.N. Staff Writer
The U.S. Postal Service honored poet, civil rights activist, and author Maya Angelou with a commemorative Forever Stamp in early April at Warner Theater in Washington D.C. Angelou died last May at age 86.
Next to a photograph of Angelou is a famous quote from her: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” The quote is referencing Angelou’s famous 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and while Angelou has been quoted saying the phrase, it isn’t hers originally.
The quote actually comes from a poem published in 1967 by children’s writer Joan Walsh Anglund. The fault may lie with President Obama, who attributed the line to Angelou in an address last year. The US postal service initially defended using the quote, arguing it was associated with Angelou. Now it is reluctantly backtracking. But there is no suggestion the stamp will be withdrawn.
Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelous’s] many other works,” USPS spokesman Mark Saunders told the Washington Post. “The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”
“The Postal Service puts a great deal of time and energy into vetting the stamps it releases each year,” Saunders added in an email to the Washington Post.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, activist and poet Nikki Giovanni and Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson were on hand in Washington to help unveil the stamp.
As an author, poet, actress, and champion of civil rights, Angelou (1928–2014) was one of the most dynamic voices in 20th-century American literature. Her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” an autobiographical account of her childhood, gained wide acclaim for its vivid depiction of African-American life in the South.
Angelou was born in St. Louis, MO, but spent many of her young, formative years between the ages of three and 14 living in Stamps, AR, under the care of her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, the owner of a local general store.
By C.N. Staff Writer