Gather Together in My Name

Gather Together in My Name

by Maya Angelou

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In this second volume of her poignant autobiographical series, Maya Angelou powerfully captures the struggles and triumphs of her passionate life with dignity, wisdom, humor, and humanity.

“A curiously heartening story in which decency, honor, truth, love do exist, imperfectly, fractionally and flickeringly, not in some Platonic realm of the ideal, but in the flawed lives of real men and women.”
—The Washington Post

Gather Together in My Name
continues Maya Angelou’s personal story, begun so unforgettably in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The time is the end of World War II and there is a sense of optimism everywhere. Maya Angelou, still in her teens, has given birth to a son. But the next few years are difficult ones as she tries to find a place in the world for herself and her child. She goes from job to job–and from man to man. She tries to return home–back to Stamps, Arkansas–but discovers that she is no longer part of that world. Then Maya’s life takes a dramatic turn, and she faces new challenges and temptations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588369239
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/21/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 199,207
Lexile: 800L (what's this?)
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, she wrote numerous volumes of poetry, among them Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning, and Mother. Maya Angelou died in 2014.


Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Date of Birth:

April 4, 1928

Place of Birth:

St. Louis, Missouri


High school in Atlanta and San Francisco

Read an Excerpt

chapter??1 I was mortified. A silly white woman who probably counted on her toes looked me in the face and said I had not passed. The examination had been constructed by morons for idiots. Of course I breezed through without thinking much about it.

rearrange these letters: ACT-ART-AST

Okay. CAT. RAT. SAT. Now what?

She stood behind her make-up and coiffed hair and manicured nails and dresser-drawers of scented angora sweaters and years of white ignorance and said that I had not passed.

“The telephone company spends thousands of dollars training operators. We simply cannot risk employing anyone who made the marks you made. I’m sorry.”

She was sorry? I was stunned. In a stupor I considered that maybe my outsized intellectual conceit had led me to take the test for granted. And maybe I deserved this high-handed witch’s remarks.

“May I take it again?” That was painful to ask.

“No, I’m sorry.” If she said she was sorry one more time, I was going to take her by her sorry shoulders and shake a job out of her.

“There is an opening, though”—she might have sensed my unspoken threat—“for a bus girl in the cafeteria.”

“What does a bus girl do?” I wasn’t sure I could do it.

“The boy in the kitchen will tell you.”

After I filled out forms and was found uninfected by a doctor, I reported to the cafeteria. There the boy, who was a grandfather, informed me, “Collect the dishes, wipe the tables, make sure the salt and pepper shakers are clean, and here’s your uniform.”

The coarse white dress and apron had been starched with concrete and was too long. I stood at the side of the room, the dress hem scratching my calves, waiting for the tables to clear. Many of the trainee operators had been my classmates. Now they stood over laden tables waiting for me or one of the other dumb bus girls to remove the used dishes so that they could set down their trays.

I lasted at the job a week, and so hated the salary that I spent it all the afternoon I quit.

chapter??2 “Can you cook Creole?”

I looked at the woman and gave her a lie as soft as melting butter. “Yes, of course. That’s all I know how to cook.”

The Creole Café had a cardboard sign in the window which bragged: COOK WANTED. seventy-five dollars a week. As soon as I saw it I knew I could cook Creole, whatever that was.

Desperation to find help must have blinded the proprietress to my age or perhaps it was the fact that I was nearly six feet and had an attitude which belied my seventeen years. She didn’t question me about recipes and menus, but her long brown face did trail down in wrinkles, and doubt hung on the edges of her questions.

“Can you start on Monday?”

“I’ll be glad to.”

“You know it’s six days a week. We’re closed on Sunday.”

“That’s fine with me. I like to go to church on Sunday.”

It’s awful to think that the devil gave me that lie, but it came unexpectedly and worked like dollar bills. Suspicion and doubt raced from her face, and she smiled. Her teeth were all the same size, a small white picket fence semicircled in her mouth.

“Well, I know we’re going to get along. You a good Christian. I like that. Yes, ma’am, I sure do.”

My need for a job caught and held the denial.

“What time on Monday?” Bless the Lord!

“You get here at five.”

Five in the morning. Those mean streets before the thugs had gone to sleep, pillowing on someone else’s dreams. Before the streetcars began to rattle, their lighted insides like exclusive houses in the fog. Five!

“All right, I’ll be here at five, Monday morning.”

“You’ll cook the dinners and put them on the steam table. You don’t have to do short orders. I do that.”

Mrs. Dupree was a short plump woman of about fifty. Her hair was naturally straight and heavy. Probably Cajun Indian, African and white, and naturally, Negro.

“And what’s your name?”

“Rita.” Marguerite was too solemn, and Maya too rich-sounding. “Rita” sounded like dark flashing eyes, hot peppers and Creole evenings with strummed guitars. “Rita Johnson.”

“That’s a right nice name.” Then, like some people do to show their sense of familiarity, she immediately narrowed the name down. “I’ll call you Reet. Okay?”

Okay, of course. I had a job. Seventy-five dollars a week. So I was Reet. Reet, poteet and gone. All Reet. Now all I had to do was learn to cook.

chapter??3 I asked old Papa Ford to teach me how to cook. He had been a grown man when the twentieth century was born, and left a large family of brothers and sisters in Terre Haute, Indiana (always called the East Coast), to find what the world had in store for a “good-looking colored boy with no education in his head, but a pile of larceny in his heart.” He traveled with circuses “shoveling elephant shit.” He then shot dice in freight trains and played koch in back rooms and shanties all over the Northern states.

“I never went down to Hang’em High. Them crackers would have killed me. Pretty as I was, white women was always following me. The white boys never could stand a pretty nigger.”

By 1943, when I first saw him, his good looks were as delicate as an old man’s memory, and disappointment rode his face bareback. His hands had gone. Those gambler’s ?fingers had thickened during the Depression, and his only straight job, carpenting, had further toughened his “money-makers.” Mother rescued him from a job as a sweeper in a pinochle parlor and brought him home to live with us.

He sorted and counted the linen when the laundry truck picked it up and returned it, then grudgingly handed out fresh sheets to the roomers. He cooked massive and delicious dinners when Mother was busy, and he sat in the tall-ceilinged kitchen drinking coffee by the pots.

Papa Ford loved my mother (as did nearly everyone) with a childlike devotion. He went so far as to control his profanity when she was around, knowing she couldn’t abide cursing unless she was the curser.

“Why the sheeit do you want to work in a goddam kitchen?”

“Papa, the job pays seventy-five dollars a week.”

“Busting some goddam suds.” Disgust wrinkled his face.

“Papa, I’ll be cooking and not washing dishes.”

“Colored women been cooking so long, thought you’d be tired of it by now.”

“If you’ll just tell me—”

“Got all that education. How come you don’t get a goddam job where you can go to work looking like something?”

I tried another tack. “I probably couldn’t learn to cook Creole food, anyway. It’s too complicated.”

“Sheeit. Ain’t nothing but onions, green peppers and garlic. Put that in everything and you got Creole food. You know how to cook rice, don’t you?”

“Yes.” I could cook it till each grain stood separately.

“That’s all, then. Them geechees can’t live without swamp seed.” He cackled at his joke, then recalled a frown. “Still don’t like you working as a goddam cook. Get married, then you don’t have to cook for nobody but your own family. Sheeit.”

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Gather Together in My Name 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gather Together In My Name is a beautifully written autobiography about Maya Angelou¿s younger years. To be honest, I am not the type of person that likes read, but this book had me hooked and I strongly recommend it to all female teenagers in high school. The book will help others to see a different perspective in life that a young sixteen year old mother faced during her time. I believe that this book also help young women observe how easy it is to simply be used by a man. Gather Together In My Name helps demonstrates what it¿s like to start off with nothing and again end with nothing within a three years period of time. This book will have a strong effect on my life and many others who wish to read it. Throughout the book, Maya writes in a perspective of a sixteen year old youthful mother that journeys in America looking for employment to support her baby son, Guy. While living in San Francisco, she received her first job ever as being a bust girl which she hated very much and decides to quit without even a week into the job. Before her job as being a bust girl she desperately wanted to be a well paid operator but when it was time for the interview a racially prejudiced white lady made her take a test that didn¿t even apply to the job. Maya knew she had past it because it was a test anybody could pass, but the lady basically tells her that the job wasn¿t cut out for her. The second job that Maya receives in San Francisco was given to her by simply lying. While sitting in a Creole café a woman came up to her asking if she can cook Creole and she said ¿Yes, of course, that¿s all I know how to cook.¿ Right then and there Maya was automatically hired on the spot. Maya didn¿t know a thing about Creole but the cooking job paid seventy-five dollars a week with cooking privileges included. So therefore she went to Papa Ford seeking for advice and he explained to her that Creole wasn¿t different from any other food that she makes. ¿Just add garlic, onion, and green pepper then you got yourself Creole food.¿ While Maya looks forward to her cooking career that she loves so much at the Creole café¿ she starts to take interest of a customer that visits on the regular basis, who goes by the name Curly. When Maya first sees Curly waling into the café she describes him as one of God¿s prettiest men. Curly has dark brown skin and a voice that makes Maya jittery she loathed his leaving and couldn¿t bear waiting for his return. Curly is a bit older than Maya (thirty one to be exact) and was very understanding of Maya¿s situation with her having baby when they started dating. Curly feels that Maya¿s babies daddy ought¿ to have his tail beaten for running out on a child and a young mother. With that statement said Maya immediately began to fall in love with him. While in a relationship with Curly Maya begins to feel mature and learns to be pleased with her body because of the pleasure it gave to her from Curly. Maya feels as if Curly is the perfect man for her until he confessed that he had a girlfriend he was soon to marry and that he would also be leaving town with in a couple of days. As a few years pass working from job to job Maya finds herself becoming a prostitute for a man that she thought she had loved. His birth name was Louis David Tolbrook but went by L.D. With this man being old enough to be her father Maya feels that L.D resembles her papa Ford in a way. In the beginning of their relationship L.D seems like a respectful and well established man that knows how to treat a woman right. It turns out that he was nothing but a pimp and a Gambler that owned women all over town. While dating Maya didn¿t recognize his identity of being a pimp when L.D suggested that she should wear school girl clothing and start addressing him with the name ¿Daddy¿. Gather Together in My Name is a powerful autobiography about Maya Angelou¿s young adult life that will have you hooked, and will also help you look at your every day life in a
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gather together in my name is an intriguing book. As memoirs do, this tells the ups and downs of this Rite's life. In the beginning we learn that she's a young seventeen-year-old girl with a son. She has a high school diploma, but can't type or do shorthand. She basically has to fend for her self by getting a job wherever she can to support both her and her baby. She seems to have been very depressed. She did let herself be used by a married man. This is really inspiring, however, because she constantly has to overcome many obstacle's to achieve what she wants. The strength in that is enormous. Most people would have just given up. She even loses her son, which is horrible because that baby is what her life revolves around. She transforms from an awkward teenager into a mature young lady throughout the book. I would recommend this to anyone for many different reasons. The first reason is that this book is fairly easy to read. It really is pretty interesting. It is comparable to a fictional story. There are really great descriptions of characters, and of settings, and even of emotions and attitudes. Secondly, the way that Angelou addresses equal rights is quite prevalent. In fact Angelou seems to address Black on Black and lifestyle prejudices more that any other issue. She makes it clear in chapter twelve that Rite does not think the 'n' word is a term of endearment. Backing up into the previous chapter, Rite meets a lesbian couple and is warned to be careful by a co-worker. To show that she doesn't care, she purposely accepts an invitation to their house for lunch. In conclusion, Rite really comes a long way from the beginning of the book to the end of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maya Angelou reveals her teenage experiences as a young mother in search of who she is as an individual. She goes from place to place in search of belonging. Maya's journey is intriguing because it's not all rainbows, it's real and tells of real world obstacles. Maya was a spunky, Independant, and courageous girl and her stories will pull you in. Maya writes with so much personality that I really got involved in her story as if I was apart of her life. If you want to know about Maya Angelou or just want a good non-fiction read, I would reccomend this book.
Jim53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the second of Angelou's autobiographical novels, we see a young black woman with an emerging sense of her dignity and pride, but an almost incredible blind spot when it comes to men and what they will do for her. A compelling tale with a vivid narrator, well supported by forceful style of writing.
ELCLBookclub on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book club discussed Maya Angelou's second autobiography and was amazed at the scope of Maya's life experiences in the two short years the book covers. She had an amazing array of jobs including waitress, cook, madam and prostitute. She had heartbreaking love affairs and lost her child for a short time. We were inspired by her courage and tenacity though wondered at a few of the choices she made. The book left us wanting to find out how she got from that place in her life to the enormously successful accomplished woman she is today.
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tiamallen82 More than 1 year ago
Maya Angelou is intoxicating! She posses the ability to make her words come alive and the inability to not hold back in her writing. She is an inspiration, in the since that she was a small town girl from Arkansas that transformed into one of the most talented Black women in history. She will take you on a journey through her life, that will leave you wanting more! 
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I couldnt put it down she is a brilliant author
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