what essential services where they denied of in the book i know why the caged bird sings
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The huge economic divide between the white and black communities of Stamps is noted; white people have plenty of clothes and can afford to be charitable and spend too much, and still they have enough for themselves. In the black community, people can hardly afford to give anything away, so when they do, it is much appreciated. Even though Momma has land and money, even she doesn't spend money like the white people do, budgeting carefully and never wasting anything. Even Momma makes all of the clothes for herself and the children, and only buys Uncle Willie expensive, ready-made clothes and shoes.
The depression hits Stamps, and leads to wages being cut and difficulty making ends meet. That also means that they can't afford to shop at the store, and Momma has to figure out how to keep the store running and still make money. She allows the townspeople to trade the relief food that they get for credit at the store, and is able to keep things going there.
Christmas comes, and Maya and Bailey get presents from their parents, who they hadn't heard of since they were shipped off to Stamps. Neither of them wanted to be reminded of their parents and being sent away, and are very sad that their parents have suddenly reappeared in their lives. But, Bailey cheers them up with the thought that perhaps their mother is preparing to come and get them, and the thought of that makes both children happy.
The theme of economic division becomes clear, as the racial divide between blacks and whites in the town perpetuates an economic divide along those same racial lines. Not only do blacks have to endure social and political subordination, but they are also unable to make as much money as any of the white people are. Angelou's tone, when she notes that black people don't have nearly as much, isn't bitter about their lack of money and things; rather, she casts white people as flippant and impractical, since they don't know how to survive off of what they have nearly as well as the black community can.
The fact that Bailey and Maya being assured that their parents are still alive and do remember them causes them grief is definitely ironic. One would expect that they would be happy to receive any word or presents from their parents, but it brings up far more painful issues for them. The theme of abandonment will be important in their young lives, as they are reclaimed and shipped off by their parents several times in the course of the book; this is one of the feelings that really influences their childhood, and also undermines their happiness.
What was the essential service?