Poet Maya Angelou reads a poem during the 2005 Pageant of Peace and National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington on December 1, 2005. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo
WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) -- The late poet Maya Angelou wasn't the first to know why the caged bird sings. According to reports by People Magazine, a quote featured on the Maya Angelou Forever stamp was not actually written by her.
The famous line, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song," is attributed to Angelou, who has said it on multiple occasions, in direct connection with her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Turns out, despite slight changes in pronouns, the original quote was written by children's book author Joan Walsh Anglund.
"That's my quote," Anglund, 89, said Monday night in response to finding out about the stamp. The modern proverb is found in her 1967 book of poems, A Cup of Sun.
"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 said.
When the Postal Service was informed about the misstep, spokesman Mark Saunders said, "Had we known about the issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou's] many other works." But it's not as big a problem as it could have been, "The sentence held great meaning for her, and she is publicly identified with its popularity," he said.
The Washington Post reports that President Obama has even attributed the same quote to Angelou in a speech given at the 2013 medal ceremony saying, "The late, great Maya Angelou once said, 'A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.' Each of the men and women that we honor today has a song...for others, it's a talent or a drive, or a passion that they just had to share with the world."
At Tuesday's unveiling of the Postal Service's new Maya Angelou stamp, the misattribution of the stamp's text wasn't mentioned. Among the speakers at the D.C. event were Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, who both praised Angelou's influential legacy and message amid a brief power failure.