Angelou: Ga. Can Display Quote

Poet Maya Angelou says she considers it a compliment that a proposed African-American monument on the city's riverfront would quote her qraphic description of slaves held in ships that once docked there.

"The picture of it, it's so horrible. And yet if we can see how horrible it is, then we might treat each other a little nicer," Angelou said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The bronze sculpture would depict a black family embracing with broken chains at its feet. The chosen site is on the Savannah riverfront, where the first slaves came into Georgia.

It's also one of Savannah's most popular tourist sites, which has caused Mayor Floyd Adams and others to question whether the Angelou quote is appropriate.

The passage reads in part: "We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others' excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together."

Angelou said she has used the passage in lectures for about 15 years, though it's never been published in a book or poem.

Savannah's city council approved the monument last month, but has yet to approve the quotation. City officials said they needed Angelou's permission first.

"I'm going to give my permission," said Angelou, author of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and the poet chosen for Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration in 1993. "It would be a compliment to me that I had said something that resonated in their own experiences in their own lives."

David Jones, a black city councilor who is leery of the quote, said he might accept it if the passage is accompanied by something more uplifting.

"They had lynching in Georgia, they hung slaves and burned black men alive tied to a tree trunk. But I wouldn't want to see a statue of that," Jones said.

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