Maya Angelou’s “Champion of the World” portrays drama, fearlessness, and a descriptive character that lends depth to her writing; drawing the reader deeper into the scene she has painted with her words. With the first paragraph she describes the scene of a gathering in her Uncle Willie’s store as being “filled, yet people continued to wedge themselves along the walls of the Store. Women sat on kitchen chairs, dining-room chairs, stools, and upturned wooden boxes. Small children and babies perched on every lap available and men leaned on the shelves or on each other” (110).
In just a few sentences she has given the scene life and at the same time a type of atmosphere for the time period. Her descriptiveness lends itself to her dramatic explanation of how the crowd reacts and behaves toward the actions described by the announcer over the radio. With just a few quick sentences strung together: “We didn’t breathe. We didn’t hope. We waited” (112) you almost want to hold your breath with the crowd as you race to get to the next sentence just to find out the outcome.
Being that the 1970’s were not an entirely peaceful time for people of color, I conclude that Angelou is fearless in her writing. Her quotes of “”Joe’s gonna whip that cracker like it’s open season”” (111) and “”That white man don’t mind huggin that ni***r now”” (111) would have been reasons for retaliation from the public or praise for her honesty of the times. Fortunately, her book was well received and accepted. The book, for which this excerpt is taken, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was nominated for a National Book award in 1970 and remained a favorite of the public for the next two years.