The excerpt from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings tells about the memories of a little girl. Marguerite Johnson and her brother Bailey, abandoned by their parents, go to their father’s mother to Stamps, Arkansas. That is how children start living with their grandmother whom they soon begin to call Mommy. Mommy has a store in the city, which she has managed to make a successful one, so it “became the lay center of activities in town” (Angelou 7). Although the grandmother is relatively wealthy due to her store, they never waste any money. The excerpt firstly shows the life of the town and the Mommy’s store before the Depression and then depicts the same things during it. When the Depression came, and people in the town became not able to buy something in the store anymore, Mommy decided to exchange the goods for products such as powdered milk and eggs that people had in abundance. The passage ends with the description of Christmas when the children get expensive gifts from their parents and find out that they are alive and just do not want them.
The are many citations that help a reader to understand the difference between blacks and whites. As an example, while white people can buy what they want even relatively wealthy black people do not live wealthy enough. The little girl states, “I couldn’t understand whites and where they got the right to spend money so lavishly” (Angelou 48). When Mommy managed to keep her store successful during the Depression, and they still had enough money and food, children never got anything special like peanut butter and crackers, although they were given with enough milk and eggs.
The historical context of the passage becomes evident when the author mentions the Depression. And considering the citations provided above, the story focuses on the racial relations during this period. Admittedly, the time of the Great Depression was hard for all Americans but black ones suffered most of all. Racial discrimination became more and more common. Many blacks lost their jobs if there was a white person to give it to. The unemployment rates for blacks were almost twice as high as for whites. The situation was particularly acute in the South where the story takes place. One of the greatest problems there was a sudden decrease in cotton prices, which usually made people leave their homes and move to northern or western cities.
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York, New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2009. Print.