I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Chapter 23
Everyone in town is excited: graduation is coming up. Maya is graduating the eighth grade, and since many of her teachers did not pass further than that level, she feels very special. She has done extremely well in school, she will wear a beautiful dress, and everyone admires her. Everything seems perfect. As she takes her seat in the auditorium, however, Maya can feel that something is wrong. And then an unexpected speaker takes the stage. He is Mr. Edward Donleavy, a white man running for election who asks for their vote. He praises their athletic abilities, and everyone can see that he has no interest in their academic strengths. He makes them feel as if all their studying has been for nothing: the only thing black people are good at is sports. He leaves, making it clear that he has more important business to attend to. Miserable, Maya believes him. She finds the graduation ceremony ridiculous: no one there will ever amount to anything. Then she hears people begin to sing "Lift Ev'ry Voice," which everyone she knows calls the Negro National Anthem. It is a song about hope under the worst conditions, and she has heard it all her life. But for the first time, she really listens, and feels proud. She understands how strong her people really are.