All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
In 1962 the poet, musician, and performer Maya Angelou claimed another piece of her identity by moving to Ghana, joining a community of "Revolutionist Returnees" inspired by the promise of pan-Africanism. All God's Children Need Walking Shoes is her lyrical and acutely perceptive exploration of what it means to be an African American on the mother continent, where color no longer matters but where American-ness keeps asserting itself in ways both puzzling and heartbreaking. As it builds on the personal narrative of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together in My Name, this book confirms Maya Angelou’s stature as one of the most gifted autobiographers of our time. From the Trade Paperback edition.
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"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is an African American spiritual. As you read the book, think about why the author might have included these lyrics here. (This annotation contains a video)
In this passage, the author is using a technique called personification to describe the breeze and the daylight in West Africa. (This annotation contains a video)
The author uses personification in this paragraph to show
An expatriate is someone who lives outside of his or her own country. Maya Angelou and Guy are expatriates, because they left the United States to live in West Africa.
How does Guy's point of view about Richard differ from Maya Angelou's point of view?
In this sentence, the author refers to "acting Black." As you continue to read, think about how the author's race and culture impact how she views herself and how others view her.
Which of the following statements can be inferred from this sentence?
Read on to see if the author develops this theme with details. (This annotation contains a video)
According to the the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible, there was a pool in Jerusalem called Besthesda where the sick, blind, and lame could go to be healed.
Cite evidence from the text that supports Julian's earlier comment, "Sometimes you have to defend yourself from yourself."
This is an image of Black Star Square. It is easy to see why it made such an impression on Maya Angelou. (This annotation contains an image)
What can you infer about how Maya Angelou is shaped by the setting of Ghana?
This passage is another reference to the Christian Bible. Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. After wasting his father's money, the son returns home and is welcomed with a feast. In this passage, Maya Angelou imagines that Africa is her mother, and she is being welcomed back home.
W.E.B. DuBois was a scholar and activist for civil rights. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1895. He is best known for co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Dubois later moved to Ghana and began working on the Encyclopedia Africana. (This annotation contains an image)
In your own words, summarize how Maya Angelou describes her group of Black Americans living in Ghana.
How does this chapter fit into the overall structure of the story?
A chimera is a mythical beast that is pieced together from parts of several animals. As the author goes on to describe how the people in the University of Ghana are dressed, see if you can determine why it seems to her that they have all been pieced together. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the word meagre mean in this sentence?
Maya Angelou is being asked to write an article about racial prejudice in America. As the chapter continues, pay attention to a lesson she learns about prejudice and discrimination in Ghana.
Summarize what Maya realizes about discrimination from her interaction with the receptionist.
A "pickaninny" is term for a slave child who was good at picking cotton in the fields. It has come to be associated with racism, prejudice, and discrimination. It is easy to see from this illustration why Maya Angelou would have been upset to be associated with this negative image of Black people. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the interaction between Maya Angelou and Comfort reflect the conflict of the story?
This is most likely a reference to the woman being a Bunny in the Chicago Playboy Club. While this couple came to African to escape oppression against Blacks, many would argue that her job was also oppressive to women.
The phrase "like a rain forest on a moonless night" suggests that African culture
This is a picture of what an outdooring ceremony might look like. (This annotation contains an image)
This sentence illustrates how people in Ghana come from different tribes and different cultures, even though their skin color is the same. As you read on, pay attention to how this idea impacts Maya Angelou's understanding of her race.
Summarize what Maya realizes about tribal differences and how they relate to the slave trade.
In this chapter, an Englishman, a Yugoslavian, and a Canadian (presumably all White) are discussing Black Africans and Black Americans. As you read on, pay attention to the ways in which Maya Angelou and the Ghanaian waiter react differently to overhearing the conversation.
How did Maya Angelou and the steward react differently to the conversation they overheard?
Chapters 1-14 Quiz
Something that is circuitous takes a non-direct route. Think about how the Ghanaian way of speaking is circuitous, whereas Black American speech is very direct.
Explain how Maya Angelou has taken on a mother role to Kojo.
Click here to hear some basic words and phrase in Fanti. (This annotation contains a video)
A palanquin is a covered chair for one passenger that is carried on the shoulders of several bearers. (This annotation contains an image)
Choose three words from this passage that create an excited tone.
Maya is comparing the man to an image that looks like this. His appearance must have been quite striking. (This annotation contains an image)
In French, there are two ways to say the word "you." One is formal, and one is informal. When Sheikhali uses the informal "you" to address Maya Angelou, he is showing that they are friends.
How does the use of dialogue help you understand the differences between Shiekhali and Maya Angelou?
What text evidence explains one reason why Maya turned down Sheikhali's marriage proposal?
Motherhood is a reoccurring theme in the book. Think about how the characters in this episode refer to each other as "Mother" and "Auntie," and how Kojo is seen as having many "mothers." How does this dialogue support the theme?
What is the author referring to when she says that Blacks carry a "a badge of a barbarous history sewn into our dark skins?"
Kwame Nkrumah oversaw Ghana's independence from British colonization in 1957. He became the first prime minister and then the first president of Ghana. (This annotation contains an image)
This metaphor expresses the idea that Maya Angelou and her friends
Maya Angelou and her friends are like "frail rafts on an ocean of political turbulence" because
Grace is very grateful to Maya Angelou for finding her salary packet. As you read on, pay attention to how Grace eventually repays Maya, and how it is culturally different from what she would expect.
The word anglicized means to make something more English. Maya Angelou is describing how the food at the university had been made to taste more English by making it less spicy. Read on to see how the Whites react to her request for red pepper to make the food more spicy,
As Maya listens to a conversation, pay attention to what the dialogue reveals about the speakers, and how Maya reacts.
What did the man and woman say that led the English woman to believe that they were "ungrateful clods."?
In this chapter, Maya Angelou describes an episode in which a husband and wife did not appreciate a kindness that was done to them simply because they are human beings. Therefore, the couple lacked humility. View this video in which Maya Angelou describes this theme in more detail and think about how it relates to this episode. (This annotation contains a video)
Summarize why Grace introduced Maya Angelou to Abantanu.
According to Sheikhali, how does his point of view about intelligence differ from Maya Angelou's?
This is a picture of Cape Coast Castle. (This annotation contains an image)
As you read on, pay attention to the ways in which Ghanaian culture compares and contrasts with Black American culture.
Which theme of the story does this episode illustrate?
How is Maya Angelou's experience in the village similar to her memories of growing up in segregated Arkansas?
Otu is reacting with excitement and awe at the mention of the Nana. As you read on, pay attention to who the Nana is and how he is viewed by Ghanaians.
What is the central idea of these two paragraphs?
List three details from this chapter that support the idea that the Nana is a powerful man.
Motherhood is a recurring theme in the story. Maya Angelou is a real mother to Guy, and a mother figure to Kojo. As you read on, pay attention to how the metaphor of Africa as a mother is relevant to Maya's story.
The word diaspora comes from the Greek word meaning, "to disperse." It refers to a group of people living outside of the region of their homeland. Maya Angelou and her friends are diaspora in Africa. in what ways are Black Americans diaspora in the United States?
What evidence in the text explains why Maya Angelou was not completely honest about her educational background?
In this chapter, Julian receives a package of sausage from Washing D.C. While this represents a literal object, the sausage can also be seen as symbolizing something abstract. As you read on, pay attention to when else the object of sausage is discussed and what it might symbolize. (This annotation contains a video)
What might the pork sausage symbolize in this chapter?
The song, "Oh, Freedom" is an African American spiritual that came to represent the civil rights movement in the United States. (This annotation contains a video)
Which sentence from this chapter best expresses Maya's conflicting thoughts about the United States?
Malcolm X has been called one of the most influential African Americans of the 20th century, People admired him for urging blacks to defend themselves against whites in whatever way necessary. His critics, however, accused him of advocating violence. (This annotation contains an image)
A Molotov cocktail is a breakable glass bottle containing flammable liquid. It is used like an improvised grenade. How is Malcolm X like a Molotov cocktail?
Here is a video of Ghanaians dancing the High Life. (This annotation contains a video)
How was Malcolm X's speech received by the audience?
This saying shows that Maya Angelou realizes
Why is Maya Angelou upset with Shirley DuBois?
Without changing the meaning of the sentence, the words intemperate umbrage could be changed to
Muhammed Ali is considered to be one of the greatest boxers in history. After joining the Nation of Islam, he changed his name from Cassicus Clay to Muhammed Ali because he believed his given name reflected the legacy of slavery in America. He was a social activist who was refused to fight in the Vietnam War because he said that violence went against his religious beliefs. (This annotation contains an image)
How are young men in love similar to "elephants in rutting time"?
Think about how Maya Angelou's use of flashback contributes to your understanding of her point of view on motherhood. (This annotation contains a video)
A cable is another word for a telegram. Before the Internet and text messaging, people sent telegrams to communicate across far distances. Because people paid for telegrams by the word, short abbreviated sentences were used. It was not possible to transmit punctuation marks, so the word STOP was used to signal a period.
How does this quote apply to both American and German societies?
Auschwitz is the name of a German concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazi's during World War II. It is estimated that 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz. Ninety percent of them were Jewish.
Bellicosity is having the natural inclination to fight.
According to Maya Angelou, Black Americans have responded to centuries of oppression by
Insouciance is a casual lack of concern, or indifference.
What can you infer about why Maya Angelou invited Torvash to the German family's house, and why he excepted?
View this video of the minuet dance. How does Maya Angelou's description of spike-heeled women and barefoot men contribute to your understanding of the relationship she is explaining? (This annotation contains a video)
What is Torvash implying with the punchline to this joke?
What does the punchline to Deiter's joke suggest?
The comparison between the people at the table to papier mache figures suggests how disoriented Maya Angelou became. (This annotation contains an image)
What evidence from this paragraph explains one way that living in Ghana has changed Maya Angelou?
What is the meaning of the word audacious in this sentence?
William V.S. Tubman is considered to be Liberia's most effective leader. He served as president from 1944 until his death in 1971. (This annotation contains an image)
What advice was Maya Angelou given to make her feel less nervous to sing with the president?
This is the song that the president and Maya Angelou sing together. It is also the song that is referenced after the title page at the beginning of the book. Think about why this song is important and how it relates to the theme of the book. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Maya Angelou's impression of the way that Liberians sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?
Being tied to "apron strings" is an idiom that is used to describe a child's dependence on his mother. In this sentence, Maya Angelou is describing how Guy is asking for independence from her.
What does this sentence indicate about how Maya Angelou reacts to Guy's statement?
In this passage, Maya Angelou is comparing African and Black American cultures in the context of the newspaper story that Efua read. As you read on, try to determine why the newspaper story was so upsetting to Efua.
Summarize the newspaper story and explain why it made Efua so upset.
High John is a slave character from African American folklore who was always able to outsmart his master. This root named after him is often used in African American folk magic.
What does this episode reveal about Comfort's character?
The theme of motherhood has been discussed thoughout the book. Maya Angelou is a literal mother to her son, Guy, and Africa has been a symbolic mother to Maya Angelou. Think about the ways that both Guy and Maya Angelou have grown, and therefore have a changing relationship to "mother."
In this paragraph, Maya Angelou clearly expresses the theme of home that has been important throughout the book. Which sentence from the paragraph best expresses this theme?
In this chapter, Maya Angelou finally experiences the deep connection to her African past that she was seeking throughout the book. As you read on, try to determine why she feels this way.
What can you infer about why Maya Angelou "felt a quick chill" when Mr. Adadevo explained the story of the bridge?
At this point in the chapter, Maya Angelou introduces several village women to the reader. As you read on, think about how Maya Angelou's interaction with these characters advances the theme of belonging.
Explain how this quote relates to the theme of belonging.
Throughout the book, Maya Angelou has referenced African American spirituals. Think about how the spirituals express the theme of home and why that theme would have been important to Black Americans living in slavery.
Maya Angelou has used references to African American spirituals throughout the book. In this final paragraph, she talks about how Black Americans have expressed their story in the blues and gospel, but it was the spirit of Africa that made them dance and laugh. The title of the book, "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes," is another reference to an African American song. As you listen to this song, think about how it represents many of the themes of the book. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapters 29-42 Quiz