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Summary Response of Maya Angelou’s “The Graduation” Essay Sample

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Summary Response of Maya Angelou’s “The Graduation” Essay Sample

In the essay “The Graduation” (McGraw-Hill 2003), Maya Angelou tells the story of life in 1940s Stamps, Arkansas. She explains how it feels to be discriminated and thought of as less than equal. Angelou shows that with a strong will to overcome, it is more than possible to set aside disgusting racism and impersonal discrimination. Angelou delivers a very detailed, inspirational, and informative story of self-acceptance.

Summary and free essays

“The Graduation” is an inspirational tale of Maya Angelou’s eighth grade graduation. She uses very powerful descriptive words to explain her surroundings, for example, Unlike the white high school, Lafayette County Training School distinguished itself by having neither lawn, nor hedges, nor tennis court, nor climbing ivy. Its two buildings (main classroom, the grade school and home economics) were set on a dirt hill with no fence to limit either its boundaries or those of bordering farms. There was a large expanse to the left of the school which was used alternately as a baseball court. (Angelou 1)

Angelou describes the extreme differences from the white school and hers. At this point in the story, Angelou is growing more and more excited about her graduation, along with her family and friends. The town was extremely supportive of the eighth grade classes’ graduation. All was seemingly well until Mr. Donleavy walked onto the stage and began to undermine the intelligence and high intellectual capacity of the entire school. He continued to imply that only the white school was worthy of new science equipment, and only highlights their athletic ability. Angelou began to ponder her existence. Her thoughts were dark and drab, until Henry Reed began to sing. He delivered his speech with power and confidence, and Angelou’s faith and self-image was restored.

Response Paragraph One

Angelou explains that inequality that existed in 1940s Stamps, Arkansas is still a very significant problem in today’s world. Throughout the essay, she gives excellent examples of this, such as, Donleavy had exposed us. We were maids and farmers, handymen and washerwomen, and anything higher that we aspired to was farcical and presumptuous. Then I wished that Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner had killed all white folks in their beds and that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated before that signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and that Harriet Tubman had been killed by that blow on her head and Christopher Columbus had drowned in the Santa Maria. (Angelou 6) By this point, Angelou feels very confused about whom she is. She goes on to think that no matter what she does, her race will always be seen as less than equal. After a few minutes of her juggling some less than uplifting thoughts through her head, she hears Henry Reed begin to give his valedictorian speech. The speech was more than words, and it inspired Angelou. She began to see a different side of Henry Reed; he spoke powerfully as if Mr. Donleavy had never been there.

Response Paragraph two

Angelou’s detailed explanation of her graduation reminds me of my own graduation. The more I read, the more I found similarities. My graduation was very meaningful to me, and like Angelou I was anticipating the day that I was able to walk across the stage and receive my diploma I had spent twelve years working very hard to obtain. The day of my graduation I was pleased to see so many of my classmates that I had grown up with right there beside me. I had never seen so many smiling faces before. Angelou describes a particular part of her experience that I relate to most, I gave myself up to the gentle warmth and thanked God that no matter what evil I had done in my life He had allowed me to live to see this day. Somewhere in my fatalism I had expected to die, accidentally, and never have the chance to walk up the stairs in the auditorium and gracefully receive my hard-earned diploma. Out of God’s merciful bosom I had won reprieve. (Angelou 4) By this point, I was fully engulfed in the story and was anticipating sentence after sentence.


“The Graduation” was a very inspirational essay about overcoming and aspiring to be all that you can. I’m sure that many people will perceive this essay very differently. However I seem to find the strongest point she made to be that no matter how hard life gets, the strength to overcome and soar above is in each and every one of us, even though we may not know it until we come face to face with such a situation.

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