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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • 1931

    Maya and Bailey are sent to live with Momma in Stamps, Arkansas.

    Chapter 1
  • 1934

    Maya's mother sends her a blonde, blue-eyed doll for Christmas.

    Chapter 8
  • 1935

    Daddy Bailey visits Stamps and takes Bailey and Maya to St. Louis.

    Chapter 9
  • 1937

    Mr. Freeman rapes Maya. After he is murdered, Maya becomes mute.

    Chapter 12
  • 1938

    Maya begins "life lessons" with Mrs. Flowers.

    Chapter 15
  • 1940

    Maya graduates from eighth grade in Stamps.

    Chapter 23
  • 1941

    Maya and Bailey move to San Francisco to live with their mother.

    Chapter 26
  • 1943

    Maya visits Daddy Bailey in California. She runs away and stays with homeless teens in a junkyard.

    Chapter 30
  • 1943

    Maya gets a job as the first African American female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

    Chapter 34
  • 1944

    Maya gets pregnant.

    Chapter 35
  • 1945

    Maya becomes a mother.

    Chapter 36

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Introduction In the untitled introduction of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, young Maya attempts to recite a poem in church for the ... Read More
Chapter 1 At age three, Maya and her brother, Bailey, one year older, travel alone by train from Long Beach, California, to Stamps... Read More
Chapter 2 Uncle Willie, who was disabled in a childhood accident, lives at the General Store with Momma. He has difficulty with wa... Read More
Chapter 3 Maya enjoys helping out at the General Store, taking pride in her accurate weighing and measuring skills. The store is h... Read More
Chapter 4 Maya describes her childhood fascination with a neighbor, Mr. McElroy. He wears suits and allows Maya and Bailey to play... Read More
Chapter 5 Momma is a strict disciplinarian, instilling the values of cleanliness and politeness in Maya and Bailey. These values a... Read More
Chapter 6 Momma is very active in the local church. Every three months, when the presiding district elder visits the Christian Met... Read More
Chapter 7 After Maya's grandfather, Mr. Johnson, left Momma "around the turn of the century with two small sons to raise," she mar... Read More
Chapter 8 The strong racial prejudice in the white section of Stamps creates an attitude of "fear-admiration-contempt" in the Afri... Read More
Chapter 9 When Maya is seven, her father pays a surprise visit. Maya and Bailey had "built such elaborate fantasies about him and ... Read More
Chapter 10 Grandmother Baxter is of mixed race and looks "nearly white." Raised in Illinois by a German family, she speaks with a G... Read More
Chapter 11 Maya decides she doesn't really feel at home in St. Louis: she dislikes the noise, the bustle, and even the packaged foo... Read More
Chapter 12 Months go by, and one spring day Mr. Freeman approaches Maya again, but this time he rapes her. He threatens to kill her... Read More
Chapter 13 Maya is sent to the hospital, where Bailey persuades her to tell him who raped her. Her grandmother and her uncles rally... Read More
Chapter 14 The quiet "barrenness" of Stamps, where nothing much ever changes, is something of a balm to Maya's pain. The locals flo... Read More
Chapter 15 After Maya spends a year in silence and withdrawal, Mrs. Bertha Flowers reaches out to her, throwing her "a lifeline." M... Read More
Chapter 16 Angelou discusses how girls are prepared for adulthood, noting African American girls' training tends to include old-fas... Read More
Chapter 17 Angelou paints a picture of life in Stamps on weekends, when farmers and their children stop at the Grocery Store on the... Read More
Chapter 18 Angelou describes the cotton pickers who come to the General Store at the end of their workday, exhausted, aching, but p... Read More
Chapter 19 The General Store is jam-packed with local families who have come to listen to the radio broadcast of a boxing match bet... Read More
Chapter 20 Maya wanders away from the Stamps summer picnic fish fry—with all of its fabulous foods, music, and fun activities—to fi... Read More
Chapter 21 When Bailey is 11 years old, he sets up a makeshift tent behind the house where he "plays house." Fully clothed, he simu... Read More
Chapter 22 One November night as a storm is blowing up, Mr. George Taylor comes to the General Store after it has closed for the ni... Read More
Chapter 23 Maya is graduating from the eighth grade, and Momma sews a special dress for her to wear to the ceremony. Angelou descri... Read More
Chapter 24 Maya has two very painful cavities, and the nearest African American dentist is 25 miles away. Momma decides to take her... Read More
Chapter 25 Momma tells Maya and Bailey that she's taking them to California because they're growing up, and they need to be with th... Read More
Chapter 26 When Maya and Momma arrive in California, she is struck by the contrast between her mother, Vivian, and Momma as they em... Read More
Chapter 27 With the start of World War II, prejudice against those with Japanese ancestry created major changes in San Francisco's ... Read More
Chapter 28 At her first high school in San Francisco, Maya encounters prejudice and mean, tough fellow students. Then she transfers... Read More
Chapter 29 In San Francisco, Maya's family lives in a 14-room house they share with a variety of boarders. The roomers bring Maya i... Read More
Chapter 30 Maya takes the train to southern California to spend her summer vacation with Daddy Bailey. Because of her father's airs... Read More
Chapter 31 After Maya and her father return, Dolores argues with Daddy Bailey, claiming he's allowing his children to come between ... Read More
Chapter 32 After leaving the unknown couple's trailer, Maya wanders the streets for a while and then spends time at the public libr... Read More
Chapter 33 Maya feels more grown-up when she returns to San Francisco, and Bailey has changed, too. His new friends are "slick stre... Read More
Chapter 34 Needing something to distract her and perk up her life, Maya decides she wants to get a job as a streetcar operator. Bec... Read More
Chapter 35 After reading a book about lesbianism, Maya is confused about how people of the same gender make love. She concludes the... Read More
Chapter 36 Maya tells herself that if she can have a baby, then at least that proves she isn't a lesbian. She accepts that she is c... Read More
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