Champion of the World by Maya Angelou: Summary & Analysis

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly McLaughlin

Kimberly has taught Middle School Language Arts for 9 years and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

Champion of the World is a chapter in Maya Angelou's novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It is a chapter that focuses on an event that is viewed as very important to the African American community during her childhood. In this lesson you will read a summary and analysis of this chapter.

Champion of the World: Summary

Champion of the World is a chapter in the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This chapter starts out describing the setting of a current event. This part of the novel takes place in the store owned by the author's grandmother and her Uncle Willie. Everyone is gathered there to listen to a boxing match between Joe Louis, aka the 'Brown Bomber', and a white boxer. It is described as being so crowded that people are even out on the porch. The chapter describes play by plays of the fight and and the confidence among the crowd of listeners. Joe Louis represents every African American at the time and Angelou compares his victory to their race overcoming all the horrible things that have happened to them. People want to celebrate by drinking colas and eating candy, but most aren't starting to yet.

Then the fight changes and Louis is pinned against the ropes. The confidence of the crowd disappears. It seems as though Louis is going to lose the fight. Angelou describes this as the world looking at their race and seeing a people who are stupid, ugly, lazy, and dirty. Worst of all , Louis losing the fight suggests that God is against them.

But then the fight changes and the 'Brown Bomber' gets off the ropes and starts fighting back. He hits his opponent with left and right punches repeatedly. Eventually, using this technique, he wins the fight! He is the champion of the world and everyone in the room is very happy. They start celebrating and drinking sodas, some spiked with 'white lightening.' It takes an hour or more before people start leaving the store. Some of the people who live further away make arrangements to stay nearby. Angelou mentions that it wouldn't be safe for them to be walking along the road after Joe Louis has proven to be the strongest man in the world.

Sketch of Joe Louis by Charles Alston
Joe Louis

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