Free Study Guide for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Book Summary|
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Many years before, an incident happened in Stamps that is still talked about. A black man, who was being hunted down for assaulting a white woman, takes shelter in Momma’s store. When he is apprehended and taken to court, he tells the judge about taking refuge at Mrs. Henderson’s store. Momma is subpoenaed. When she arrives in court, she introduces herself as Mrs. Henderson. The judge, bailiff, and the audience laugh at her, amazed that a black woman would call herself "Mrs." Amazingly, however, the white people in Stamps still refer to Momma as Mrs. Henderson. She is the only black woman called "Mrs." by them
This chapter is Maya’s tribute to her grandmother. It is exclusively devoted to Momma and highlights an incident that has made her a legend in Stamps. Some of her history is disclosed, including her marriages and her code of living alongside whites. But it is the story of her court appearance that makes the chapter memorable.
The legend centers around the seemingly absurd notion that a black woman warrants enough respect to be designated "Mrs.". When Momma arrives in court, the unfamiliar judge and bailiff are startled to see that the "Mrs. Henderson" mentioned is a black woman. But from then on, all the white people in Stamps call her "Mrs." As a result, the black people look at her with new respect.
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