Louis and Lucille Armstrong are hosted by Prime Minister Nkrumah, Accra, September 1957

Maya Angelou’s fifth autobiographical book

Up to 1986, Maya Angelou had successively written four autobiographical and highly acclaimed books:

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970
  2. Gather Together in My Name, 1974
  3. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, 1976
  4. The Heart of a Woman, 1981

In 1986 she published the fifth volume titled All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Random House. 210 pages.). The book shares an important milestone in Maya Angelou’s journey and experience.  As Professor Albert M. Greenfield put it in a review for the New York Times (May 11, 1986), the story unfolds in “the early 1960’s in Ghana, where Miss Angelou is teaching at the University of Ghana and working as an editor. In Accra, she joins a number of Afro-Americans, ‘“a little group of Black folks, looking for a home.” Kwame Nkrumah‘s Ghana became a haven for black Americans during the late 50’s and early 60’s, and Miss Angelou provides glimpses of people like the black novelist Julian Mayfield and the activist Malcolm X in a Ghanaian landscape. More captivating, however, are her own episodic engagements with a homeland that refuses to become “home.” Though independence and prosperity make Ghana a festival in black, there is no point of connection between Miss Angelou and what she calls the “soul” of Africa. She speculates that perhaps “only the African living in total despair, pressed down by fate, refused, rejected and abandoned” can understand the sound of “homely” Afro-American spirituals and know that home is the place where one is created.”

Maya Angelou devotes her work “… to Julian Mayfield and Malcolm X  and all the fallen ones who were passionately and earnestly looking for a home.”

The book opens with the famous gospel song so memorably rendered by Louis Armstrong:

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.”

Follow this link for the  first of  a series of large excerpts from All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes.

Tierno S. Bah