Fail! US postal service issues Maya Angelou stamps, uses wrong quote

The US Postal Service on Tuesday unveiled a limited edition stamp honoring black poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. However, they failed to get it right. The quote used in the stamp isn't Angelou's.

The quote in question featured under Maya Angelou's picture, “a bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” is actually attributed to Joan Walsh Anglund.

Maya Angelou stamp. Reuters

Maya Angelou stamp. Reuters

The Washington Post first reported the controversy about the origins and attribution of this quote, which appears in Joan Walsh Anglund's 1967 book, "A Cup of Suns."

"Today, Dr. Angelou receives the Postal Service's highest honor, the commemoration of her image on a United States postage stamp and yet her life, so meaningful and varied, can hardly be contained within the four corners of a stamp," Postmaster General Megan Brennan said at the ceremony.

Angelou's groundbreaking 1969 memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," earned her international acclaim for its unflinching account of rape and racism in the segregated South.

Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders told the Post that "numerous references" attributed the quote to her, as well. It has been associated with her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In an e-mail Saunder wrote, "Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou's] many other works. ... The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity."

The Vox pointed out that even President Obama gave the writer credit for it at the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities ceremony, saying, "The late, great Maya Angelou once said, ‘A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.' Each of the men and women that we honor today has a song — literally, in some cases. For others, it's a talent, or a drive, or a passion that they just had to share with the world."

The ceremony at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC, included Angelou's only son, Guy Johnson, First Lady Michelle Obama, media magnate Oprah Winfrey and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Longtime friend Winfrey said the poet would have laughed out loud at the news that she was going to be on a postal stamp.

Angelou was 86 when she died at her home in May last year, following years of health problems.



Updated Date: Apr 09, 2015 09:43 AM

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