Post Office Fail: Commemorative Maya Angelou Stamp Quotes Another Author

A stamp meant to commemorate late author and poet laureate Maya Angelou was unveiled by the Post Office Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. But despite having an enormous number of beautiful, inspirational quotes from the late poet to choose from, a quote attributed to a completely different author was used instead.

The stamp features the face of Maya Angelou, and next to that, a quote by Joan Walsh Anglund, from her book A Cup Of Sun, has been printed.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

The quote is certainly reminiscent of one of Maya Angelou’s most-famed works, her 1969 autobiography and tale of fierce survival, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but the words are not those of Maya Angelou.

“Yes, that’s my quote,” author Anglund said in an interview with the Washington Post. The quote appears on page 15 of her book of poems, which was published in 1967. The pronouns and punctuation were changed from Augland’s original work, from “he” to “it,” before being misattributed to Angelou on the stamp.

United States Post Office spokesperson Mark Saunders released a statement addressing the mistake.

“Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou’s] many other works… the sentence held great meaning for her, and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”

He points to a 2013 interview that quoted Angelou saying the phrase, and, in a later statement, claimed that “numerous references” attributed the quote to Maya Angelou, as well. And CNN reports that President Obama attributed the quote to Maya Angelou in a 2013 presentation of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

“The Postal Service used her widely recognized quote to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” the statement said.

The ceremony unveiling the commemorative stamp, which included speeches from Oprah Winfrey and First Lady Michelle Obama, made no mention of the mistake.

Anglund appears gracious about the Post Office’s attribution of her own words to the late Maya Angelou.

“[…]I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it’s kind of going into your subconscious and you don’t realize it.”

She added that she herself loved Maya Angelou’s works.

The United States Postal Service has not yet said whether they will re-issue a commemorative stamp of Maya Angelou with one of her own quotes.

To read more about the late poet Maya Angelou, click here to read ten, little-known facts about her.

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