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Maya Angelou’s “Forever ” Stamp Controversy

A celebration and legacy is now being embraced with controversy.

When the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that it would create a stamp in honor of the late Dr. Maya Angelou, excitement sprouted. A poignant voice for the African-American community being highlighted on a postal stamp? Yes, please!

On Tuesday, the Maya Angelou “Forever Stamp” dedication took place in Washington and was attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, poet Nikki Giovanni, Oprah and a host of others.

The stamp, accentuating Dr. Angelou’s sincere smile, is accompanied by a quote that reads: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

The words express a beautiful sentiment, initially thought to stem from the works of Dr. Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” #MayaForever immediately became a trending topic on social media and controversy soon followed with reports that the quote is actually the words of fellow poet, Joan Walsh Anglund.

The Washington Post reported that the quote actually appears in Anglund’s 15-page book of poems, “A Cup of Sun.”

The quote has been attributed to Maya Angelou for several years – including a mention by President Obama during the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal ceremonies.

During an interview with the Washington Post, Anglund expressed no angst against the cultural icon and USPS’s use of her words.

“I haven’t read all of her things, and I love her things, of course,” she told the publication. “But I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it’s kind of going into your subconscious and you don’t realize it. I don’t know about the stamp and I hope that it’s successful.”

Questions of whether or not the quote should be replace and if it decreases the value of the collector’s item have surfaced. What are your thoughts?

Let us know in the comments!