In her lifetime, Maya Angelou was a well renowned American poet and civil rights activist. Her most critically acclaimed autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, established her as a public figure for women of color in the United States.
In the above quote, Angelou expresses the harrowing weight of hiding one’s innermost thoughts and experiences from the rest of the world.
As a prolific writer, she has many famous and emotionally striking quotes. Considering her particular situation in society, it is understandable that she would have a unique understanding of the agony of not speaking to your suffering.
On the contrary, the ancient philosopher Plato believed that “If men learn this [writing], it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written,”. He did not share the same belief in the therapeutic value of writing to express and share one’s opinions and experiences.
An example of what Angelou alludes to in this quote could be any number of forms of written cathartic expression. In her own autobiography, she exemplifies this, by sharing her early life and tribulations as a young woman of color during the time of segregation.
Throughout her life, Maya inspired many in marginalized positions to express themselves through the cathartic act of writing, and has done excellent work for civil rights.