Maya Angelou’s stamp will not be reissued after the United States Postal Service said a big “oops” in its misattribution of a quote on the new Forever stamp commemorating the poet and author. The quote was supposed to be one of Angelou’s famous lines, but instead belonged to another author.
The quote said “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” The misunderstanding came, according to the USPS, because Angelou was so associated with the quote. She quoted the phrase often in interviews. Also, Angelou wrote an autobiography in 1969 titled I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings, so the quote has often been attributed to her. However, the quote’s actual author is Joan Walsh Anglund. She penned the sentiment in 1967 poetry book A Cup of Sun.
David Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said the stamp would not be reissued. While the government would have chosen another quote actually belonging to Angelou if it discovered the mistake earlier, officials said this quote is one Angelou loved so there is no need to reissue the stamp to get a correct quote.
The Postal Service is not the only one making the mistake. President Barack Obama used it as a quote of the author in a 2013 ceremony honoring those given the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts.
For the record, USPS officials said they weren’t aware of the poetry book A Cup of Sun. Officials discovered the book after the Washington Post noticed the mistake while working on a story about the stamp unveiling and posed the question.
Anglund, 89, confirmed it was her quote but isn’t angry over the mistake. She told reporters she was a fan of Angelou and hopes stamp sales go well. She said one letter was changed. She has the word “he” in her original quote and it was changed to “it” on the stamp.
The stamp, unveiled to much fanfare on April 7, celebrated the late author, who died last year at the age of 86. The unveiling was scheduled around the poet’s birthday on April 4. There were approximately 1,700 friends, fans and others on hand to participate in to celebrate. First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey were among those on hand.
Angelou, a St. Louis, MO, native spent her youth in Stamps, Ark., and was raised by her grandmother amid the harshness of segregation and racism. She studied the arts, including drama and dance, at San Francisco Labor School after receiving a scholarship. Her education ended when she became the first African-American female car conductor for the city. She wrote 36 books with many of them landing on the best-selling list. Her script for the 1972 film Georgia Georgia was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Well-known as an author and a poet, Angelou was an educator, producer, actress, historian, dramatist, civil rights activist and filmmaker. She is regarded as one of the most influential voices of a generation. Angelou was given more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees in honor of her work and contribution to society.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by York College ISLGP – Flickr license