The Mothering Blackness, Maya Angelou: Summary & Analysis

"The Mothering Blackness" by Maya Angelou is a powerful and evocative poem that celebrates the strength, identity, and resilience of black women. Through vivid imagery and emotive language, the poem explores the themes of homecoming, cultural heritage, and the enduring bond between black women and their ancestral roots.

The Mothering Blackness by Maya Angelou

She came home running
back to the mothering blackness
deep in the smothering blackness
white tears icicle gold plains of her face
She came home running
She came down creeping
here to the black arms waiting
now to the warm heart waiting
rime of alien dreams befrosts her rich brown face
She came down creeping
She came home blameless
black yet as Hagar’s daughter
tall as was Sheba’s daughter
threats of northern winds die on the desert’s face
She came home blameless


"The Mothering Blackness" celebrates the strength, identity, and resilience of black women. The poem portrays a journey of homecoming and connection to the "mothering blackness," a place of cultural heritage and warmth. The imagery and emotions conveyed in the poem reflect the enduring bond between black women and their ancestral roots.

Critical Analysis

"The Mothering Blackness" celebrates the beauty and strength of black women through three distinct stanzas, each portraying a different facet of the speaker's identity and heritage.

The first stanza vividly describes the act of "coming home" to the "mothering blackness." The phrase "white tears icicle gold plains of her face" suggests the juxtaposition of emotions and struggles faced by black women. The imagery of "icicle gold plains" highlights the tears as precious and valuable, while also acknowledging the harshness of reality.

The second stanza continues the theme of homecoming, as the speaker comes "down creeping" to the embrace of "black arms" and the "warm heart." The phrase "rime of alien dreams befrosts her rich brown face" portrays the impact of external pressures and challenges, yet the resilience and beauty of the speaker's identity remain intact.

In the final stanza, the speaker's blamelessness is contrasted with historical figures Hagar and Sheba's daughters. This contrast underscores the speaker's purity and authenticity, while also connecting her to powerful historical and cultural legacies.

Themes of the Poem

  • Strength and Resilience: The poem celebrates the strength and resilience of black women in the face of challenges and adversity.
  • Identity and Heritage: The poem explores the connection between black women and their cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of embracing one's roots.
  • Homecoming: The poem conveys the concept of "coming home" both literally and metaphorically, symbolizing a return to a place of belonging and understanding.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery to convey the emotions, struggles, and beauty of black women's experiences.
  • Contrast: The contrast between images of struggle and strength, blamelessness and historical connections, adds depth to the poem's exploration of identity.


  • Celebration: The poem celebrates the strength, beauty, and resilience of black women, conveying a sense of pride and admiration.
  • Connection: The poem expresses a deep sense of connection between the speaker and her cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of embracing one's identity.


  • Metaphorical Language: The phrase "mothering blackness" serves as a metaphor for the place of cultural identity and heritage that provides nurturing and support.
  • Symbolism: The figures of Hagar and Sheba's daughters symbolize historical and cultural connections, adding depth to the speaker's identity.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm: The rhythmic flow of the poem contributes to its emotive and celebratory quality, enhancing its emotional resonance.
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