An Accidental Quote Goes Global
This is the third post in our No Bird Brains Here blog series where we muse about how our discerning BOPS feathered residents have been subjects of some well-known quotes and explore some of the ones we believe would be of interest to them and our readers.
Today we feature a quote accidentally attributed to Dr. Maya Angelou, a gifted American poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist—by the US Post Office. In 2015, the post office released a stamp honoring Angelou with her picture and the quote—which is actually a quote from a book of poems by Joan Walsh Anglund (from her 1967 book A Cup of Sun.) Ooops.
The quote attributed to Ms. Angelou is:
A BIRD DOESN’T SING BECAUSE IT HAS AN ANSWER, IT SINGS BECAUSE IT HAS A SONG.
Although Angelou didn’t exactly say these words, her best-known work, titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is thematically connected... and well, she is just a remarkable author and poet—and no doubt a fan favorite of our feathered flock—so she’s earned a spot in this series.
A phenomenal story teller, Angelou changed the world with her (spoiler alert) traumatic, autobiographical depiction of a childhood event that eventually left her mute for 5 years. She not only gave a much-needed voice to a young black female character, she gave her readers a vivid understanding of what it was like to grow up as a minority female in the South.
A true labor of love, Angelou started I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1950, but it wasn’t until 1970 that she celebrated its publication. Although initially well received, the book also earned her an untenable label of being one of the most banned authors in the US as the book was frequently removed from reading lists for sexual content, language and drug use.
She also endured a 24-year dry spell between initial publication and its reliable appearance on today’s best seller lists. And for that change of fortune, we need to go back in time to 1993 and Bill Clinton’s inauguration where Angelou read her poem On the Pulse of Morning and like magic, sales shot up 500 percent and landed her book back on the bestseller list.
Although widely recognized as an author and poet, Angelou has also left an indelible mark as a singer, composer, dancer, actor, journalist, lecturer—and as a civil rights worker with Martin Luther King, Jr.
Prior to her death in 2014, she enjoyed 29 other best-selling titles (out of the 36 books she had written) and kept her “caged bird” legacy topical by co-writing a movie version that starred Diahann Carroll and Constance Good.
And in true Maya Angelou spirit, she collaborated with two well-known music producers (Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr) on a hip-hop album aptly titled Caged Bird Songs.
At BOPS we like to take an optimistic view of things, so we want to thank the US Post Office for giving us the opportunity to share yet another famous bird quote with YOU, a remarkable group of people that dedicate yourself, your support and your love to captive parrots here at our BOPS sanctuary and all around the world.
The next blog in this series will feature an actual parrot named Poll, who was a companion bird of our 7th president Andrew Jackson. Poll had a lot to say, albeit, not much that we can repeat in our blog!