"Am I not a man and brother?' Slavery was prominent in the United States until the Civil War. The civil war started the domino effect when it granted blacks the right to basic freedoms one which included the freedom of speech. This period brought many great works, including Paul Dunbar's "Sympathy" (1899) and Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird" (1983). Both poems speak on the discrimination blacks faced during the civil rights era. Although both poems have their similarities, they also have their distinct differences: they are similar because both poems share the hope for freedom and oppression. However, they are distinctly different because one poem speaks of the experiences of a caged bird and a free bird, while the other just speaks on the caged bird itself. "But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings." This line from Dunbar's "Sympathy" is a clear act of pure hope. A plea is said to be a request made in an urgent and emotional manner. The caged bird is at its lowest point where he not only prays but pleas to his God. The caged, like many blacks at this time, had to persevere in hope for freedoms they never had. .
Similar to "Sympathy", "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" also speaks of hope for freedom. Line 15-18, "The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still." The caged bird is actually ignorant to freedom but that does not change his desire. Also, not only is the caged bird-ignorant to freedom but fearful. However, fear and ignorance do not stop the caged bird from singing. Another prominent theme practiced in both poems would have to be oppression. In "Sympathy", oppression is seen in line 12, "Pain still throbs in the old, old scars." Assuming that this is true, the old scars could be referencing to the scars of slaves that came before.