CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS NEW STAMP HONORING MAYA ANGELOU
A new stamp has recently been unveiled, honoring the late author Maya Angelou. However, the quote on the stamp, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song,” was actually written by an 89-year-old children’s book author Joan Walsh Anglund.
“Yes, that’s my quote,” Anglund said. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems “A Cup of Sun,” published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from “he” in Anglund’s original to “it” on the stamp.
A Postal Service spokesman, Mark Saunders, initially said he had never heard of the Anglund quote until The Washington Post informed him of it. In response, he sent a link to a 2013 blog post interview that quoted Angelou saying the phrase. In a later statement, he also said “numerous references” attributed the quote to her. The Postal Service used her widely recognized quote to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” But after being told Anglund confirmed the quote as hers, Saunders 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.”
Emily Anglund, Anglund’s granddaughter, said she had no idea that the quote has been attributed to Angelou for several years, or that it is featured on her forever stamp. “We didn’t realize it until you brought it to our attention now. Wow,” she said.
Last year, in remarks at the presentation of the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal, President Obama attributed the quote to Angelou: “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 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.”
“I haven’t read all of her things, and I love her things, of course,” Joan Walsh Anglund said of the poet and cultural icon,” she said. “It’s an interesting connection.”
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