“Harlem Hopscotch” is a poem written by the American poet, playwright, memoirist, and Civil Rights leader Dr. Maya Angelou. It uses the childhood game of hopscotch as an extended metaphor for how Black Americans must navigate a racist society and what it means to be truly free within such circumstances. "Harlem Hopscotch" was first recorded by Maya Angelou as part of a 1969 spoken word audio collection, The Poetry of Maya Angelou. It was later included in Angelou's first published collection of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, which appeared in 1971.
One foot down, ...
... ones that's got.
Another jump, now ...
... Everybody for hisself.
In the air, ...
... don't stick around.
Food is gone, ...
... then jump two.
All the people ...
... twist and jerk.
Cross the line, ...
... hopping's all about.
Both feet flat, ...
... think I won.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Maya Angelou Reading “Harlem Hopscotch” — Listen to Angelou read her poem in her 1969 spoken word collection.
Biography of Maya Angelou — Read more about Dr. Maya Angelou's life and work, and read more of her poems, at the Poetry Foundation website.
Maya Angelou's Official Website — Visit the official website of Dr. Maya Angelou to read more about her life, work, and legacy.
Full Album of “Caged Bird Songs” — Listen to the full album “Caged Bird Songs,” including the song created for “Harlem Hopscotch,” and watch a 2020 video made to accompany Angelou’s poem “Human Family.” These songs were created for thirteen of Angelou’s poems, and include Angelou reading the poems. Maya Angelou collaborated on this album before her death in 2014.
Music Video for "Harlem Hopscotch" — Watch a music video created for “Harlem Hopscotch.” The video includes Angelou reciting the poem, and choreography Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo (known for their work on the show “So You Think You Can Dance”). This video was included as part of the 2014 album “Caged Bird Songs,” a series of songs based on Angelou’s poems.
Serena Williams Reading Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" — Listen to tennis legend Serena Williams read Angelou’s famous poem, “Still I Rise,” in this video created by the BBC.
The Black Arts Movement — Learn more about the Black Arts Movement, of which Maya Angelou was a part when she wrote "Harlem Hopscotch."
1One foot down, then hop! It's hot.
2Good things for the ones that's got.
3Another jump, now to the left.
4Everybody for hisself.
5In the air, now both feet down.
6Since you black, don't stick around.
7Food is gone, the rent is due,
8Curse and cry and then jump two.
9All the people out of work,
10Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
11Cross the line, they count you out.
12That's what hopping's all about.
13Both feet flat, the game is done.
14They think I lost. I think I won.