Harlem Hopscotch

Harlem Hopscotch Study Guide

Harlem Hopscotch is a poem written and recorded by famed civil rights leader Dr. Maya Angelou in her spoken-word collection The Poetry of Maya Angelou (1969). The poem was later published in her anthology collection, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971).

The poem is an extended metaphor, via the children’s game of hopscotch, that highlights the struggles of Black Americans. Each of the hops in the different boxes represents yet another challenge faced in their integration into American society. Instead of it being simply a children’s game, for Black Americans, it is a matter of life and death.

Historian and novelist Carol A. Neubauer stated that the poem has a “lively, invincible beat that carries defeated figures into at least momentary triumph." Indeed, the poem heavily references the struggles of Black Americans throughout history, and reiterates the ever-present barrier of class and race that hold back the progression of the civil rights movement.