Sample Education Paper on Graduation – Maya Angelou

Graduation – Maya Angelou

Graduation is a crucial transitional moment for anyone in life as it marks forward progress from one point of life to another. Graduation in academic pursuit is more fulfilling as it marks the use of knowledge to attain life goals. This is what graduation meant for individuals attending grammar school, including Maya Angelou, who projected a fulfilling life after accomplishing their academic goals. From Maya’s point of view, graduation has ethos mainly because, as an African American girl, she bears similar thoughts and feelings as everyone on stage in the auditorium. While graduations serve as a crucial marker of the success attained in academic pursuit and a common event in today’s society that people often take for granted, it is not the case for Angelou as having a graduation as a black American in her hometown was not considered a privilege. Subtly, Angelou recounts her graduation from a personal experience and a crowd’s reaction to provide insights into the prevalent discrimination, self-evolution, and perseverance that define one’s most valuable traits in a society awash with inequality.

Angelou begins the narrative with a description of the joy and anticipation that residents of Stamps town, Arkansas, bore for the forthcoming debate. Besides, she intuitively lists a host of examples that indicate that her family and the entire town were looking forward and were highly delighted about the graduation. For all students, like Angelou, graduating is a significant phase, and it means an uplifting, proud, and meaningful stage in one’s journey. Since African Americans were still riling in the shackles of discrimination during the 1940s, the graduation event symbolized attainment and great honor (Hubbard). As the author proclaims, it was necessary and significant. From this notion, it is clear that residents of Arkansas held the graduation day in reverence and a ceremony that was more like a holiday.

This narrative is told by a woman who had overcome all the challenges in life to witness this day. However, Mr. Edward Donleavy passively casts doubt on everything the students had been working so hard to accomplish. What Angelou does best is evoking feelings of empathy through her personal, learned, symbolic, and detailed inscriptions that make it possible to pass on the ill feelings and embraces from the speakers’ speeches during the graduation for everyone to see the inequalities rampant in the society.

The inequality and pervasiveness of discrimination are a subject of debate in society. Maya Angelou, in her essay, presents the different forms of discrimination African Americans endured in the hands of the white majority. The author utilizes short descriptions to extend her essay of discrimination and racism in her society based on her schooling encounters, such as how black learners were not appreciated for their educational intelligence rather their physicality (Libassi). For instance, graduates were compared with travelers with exotic destinations on their minds that are remarkably forgettable. The author posits that when tests were returned after grading, the student body primarily comprised white students and acted like an extended family knew who had performed well and those who had flopped, highlighting a class social preference (Baker, et al. 12). I believe that Maya describes this disappointment and discrimination of those who had the money for traveling and willing workers to depict the effects of racism on the social and individual lives signaling the unfairness they contend within society. For instance, white learners had preferential treatment, which is unfair to other students. The author notes that some instructors’ acceptance of late work and delay of high-class learners due to their race was outright inapt. Similarly, the establishment of the central school for development with well-trained instructors and ample resources to enhance the experience for learners while overlooking the interests of minority students was utterly unfair. Further, Angelou notes that after graduating the 8th grade, most boys were dispatched to work in fields while girls were responsible for home economies (Brunsma, et al. 6). A white man conveys his message on the approved developments occurring at a white school during the graduation ceremony. During this moment, the author’s tone changes to anger and nervousness following the white man’s utterances in praising the improvements in white schools and only praising black students for their talents in field games (Flaherty 13). These experiences infuriated Maya, and she is gutted with her race as they were only praised for their physicality first, which causes her to lament and curse her white counterparts.

The author utilizes different literary elements to communicate the primary point of the narrative. Maya structures her essay in a way that helps the reader to develop empathy and understand what she and the minority community have to endure during the 20th century. The narrative structure points out the good and horrible encounters that help define her perception of self and indicate progress in her life. An element that stands out is the tone that serves to convey the main point of the essay. Two significant drifts occur throughout the essay. The essay sets off with a happy and excited tone about the graduation. Angelou notes that the children are trembling with visible anticipation, just as some adults were consumed with the graduation epidemic exemplifying the happy tone of the narrative. However, midway through the narrative, the tone changes drastically in the opposite direction. Once the two white politicians assume the stage, the atmosphere of the graduation shifts; Maya posits that her mood changes when the speaker’s dead words depicting a racist approach made the author feel like she never amounted to anything even after the hard laboring in school.

A massive part of the message the author is trying to communicate is the pervasive racial segregation at the community level. At the prelude of this essay, the author offers a subtle comparison of black and white schools. She defines schools for blacks as lacking in resources such as lawns, hedges, playing turfs, and climbing ivy-like those in white schools. This description provides a vivid depiction of what white students enjoyed and the neglect of black schools. More remarkable to this, it describes the main priorities of the society during the 1940s, such as the lack of significance of the school’s name to black communities, Layfette County Training School. Black schools were largely considered training schools since black students were perceived not to require a real education. Since black students were not accorded equal opportunities to pursue higher educations, their schools barely focused on further studies. When Donleavy refers to black students graduating as future sports personalities and nothing more, it is considered an insult because he implies that they cannot contribute anything meaningful besides sports to the American community. Maya incorporates these details in the narrative to highlight the negated attitudes whites held towards the black community.

In her essay, Angelou reflects her pain to portray the pain and indicate how one section of the population can produce negative sentiments for those around them. When Mr. Donleavy assumes the stage, he dampens the mood of everyone attending the ceremony. Luckily, as the narrative draws towards the end, the tone reverts to a happy one casting hope for the graduates. After the downcast, Henry Reed leads the graduates in reciting the Negro National Anthem, which brings back some joy and a sense of unity to the community (Lupton 31). At this moment, Angelou hears the lyrics, and they finally give some meaning to her; she begins to feel optimistic about what she could become in the coming days. Angelou uses literary elements in this narrative and incorporates crucial details to point out the specific period.

The primary objective of Angelou writing this essay that emphasizes the significance of “Graduation” was to share her encounters with the world around her and for future generations to understand the plight of minority groups during the 20th century. Maya seeks to raise awareness among readers of the prevalence of racism and allow the reader to comprehend and even relate (Preston 18). Additionally, she wants to communicate a strong message that one should cast another person down despite one’s traits, such as skin color. In what was supposed to be a colorful and the happiest day for many students, including Maya, a white commentator made ugly racist remarks that dampened everyone’s mood. Witnessing the author and her classmates overcome this attempt was a powerful thing that ended the message that racism and discrimination can be defeated.

Angelou utilizes a specific structure, tonal variation, and vital time references when writing an essay that is both emotional and thought-provoking. Maya does not simply write to amuse her audience but to enlighten readers of the reality of racism. Beyond that, she illustrates that the actions or words of some elements of the society cannot keep a whole race and determined individuals down. She writes concerning things not in the public domain, such as black graduations, and utilizes writing approaches that make her a famous book. Moreover, this narrative serves as a perfect depiction of African-Americans and girls’ challenges endured during the 1940s. Besides attending under-resourced schools, members of the minority groups are constantly deprived of opportunities to pursue higher education by uncountable challenges. Angelou emerges to this realization during her graduation, which changes the most exciting day of her life into a dull one. This real-life account highlights the experiences and harsh environments minority groups endure in the predominantly white society.




Works Cited

Baker, Rachel, et al. “Race and Stratification in College Enrollment Over Time.” AERA Open, vol. 4, no. 1, 2018, pp. 2-27.

Brunsma, David L., et al. “Graduate Students of Color.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-13.

Flaherty, Colleen. “The Black Experience in Higher Education.” Inside Higher Ed, 2020, pp. 6-53.

Hubbard, Lucas. “For Some Black Students, Discrimination Outweighed Integration’s Benefits.” Duke Today | Duke Today, 2021,

Libassi, Collin J. “The Neglected College Race Gap: Racial Disparities Among College Completers.” Center for American Progress, 2018,

Lupton, Mary J. Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Preston, Deshawn. “Placing Race at the Center of Developmental Education.” Untold Barriers for Black Students in Higher Education, 2017, pp. 4-32.