Date Read: April 29th 2015
Published: 1991 (first published in 1986)
Publisher: Vintage Books
In 1962 the poet, musician, and performer Maya Angelou claimed another piece of her identity by moving to Ghana, joining a community of “Revolutionist Returnees” inspired by the promise of pan-Africanism. All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes is her lyrical and acutely perceptive exploration of what it means to be an African-American on the mother continent, where color no longer matters but where American-ness keeps asserting itself in ways both puzzling and heartbreaking. As it build on the personal narrative of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together In My Name, this book confirms Maya Angelou’s stature as one of the most gifted autobiographers of our time.
Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes is book five of Maya Angelou’s autobiography series. I read books one, two and three when I was younger; I’ll dig through my Mom’s old books and read book four soon! Check out the books in her autobiography series – here.
This autobiography takes place in Ghana (mostly Accra) in the 1960’s, shortly after Ghana’s independence in 1957. In All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou joins a community of disenfranchised African-Americans/Negro Americans (they called themselves the ‘Revolutionist Returnees’) on their quest to explore, understand and aid the Motherland in any way they can. While in Ghana, Angelou finds a job as an administrator at the University of Ghana – Legon and at a local newspaper as a journalist. Angelou takes us through the different conversations and interactions she has with the kind-hearted Ghanaians during her stay. I loved how most Ghanaians made her feel at home; Ghanaians are very hospitable – especially to foreigners, and this book definitely highlights this fact. My country did me proud in this book! I was glad that Maya Angelou was living with a community of African-Americans, but mostly interacted with Africans throughout her stay in Ghana – there was a good balance.
An interesting part in the book is when Angelou and the other African-Americans protested in front of the American Embassy in Accra on the same day of the March On Washington, lead by Martin Luther King Jr in the United States. The purpose of the March On Washington and the simultaneous protest at the American embassy in Accra were to demand the equal rights of people of all colors, as well as desegregation in the United States. W.E.B DuBois was also in Ghana at the time – he gained Ghanaian citizenship and lived in Ghana during the latter part of his life. My favorite part of the book is when Malcolm X arrives in Ghana and Angelou along with the other ‘Revolutionist Returnees’ do their best to make him feel at home, arrange various talks for him around Accra and even pull some strings for him to meet President Kwame Nkrumah. The historical snapshots in this book are awesome! It was amazing to read about these iconic leaders being regular people while making history, through Angelou’s lens.
Angelou struggled a lot in this book with her identity and facing the facts of the past. It constantly angered her to recollect how Africans sold other Africans into slavery, giving rise to present day African-Americans and other people of African descent in the diaspora. Maya Angelou couldn’t even visit the Elmina Castle – which housed millions of slaves at the Cape Coast of Ghana, because the dehumanizing ordeals her ancestors endured at this historical venue prior the Trans-Atlantic journey nauseated her. I appreciated her quest to live and understand the ‘black experience’ in Africa – Ghana, which is a place where almost everyone is black. This is truly an informative, fun, fast read, as Angelou articulates her experiences with such ease and humor. This memoir ends on a satisfying note for me. I recommend this to anyone who appreciates Black history and those who wish to travel to the continent of Africa on the quest for his/her identity.
★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!
My mother’s lovely Maya Angelou collection above. These books are super old! Purchase All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes on Amazon