The speaker of this poem is a confident, empowered, and resilient woman who refuses to succumb to oppression. By making references to her ancestors and the ways in which they have been depicted in history, she proclaims adamantly that she will break the cycle of suffering and rise above the pain of her heritage. She uses a confrontational tone and addresses an unspecified “you” throughout the poem.
However, by referring to herself as a “black ocean” and citing the word “slave,” the speaker gives the poem racial overtones and implies that she is, in fact, a black woman. This reference therefore implies that she is most likely addressing the white oppressors who have enslaved and discriminated against black people.
The white oppressors
The “you” most likely refers to the white oppressors who have historically kept the speaker's people down in history with “bitter, twisted lies.” This history may refer to all the different forms of oppression that black people have encountered around the world, from colonial oppression to racism and a lack of civil rights in America and beyond. The speaker implies that black people have been targeted unfairly, treated cruelly, and depicted dishonestly. She directs her rage at these oppressors, condemns their behavior, and challenges them to try to stop her from shedding the horrible past. She will not be silenced, and she will overcome any obstacles that come her way. She is the victor, not the victim.
Still I Rise Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Still I Rise is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.