Sammy Nickalls
April 07, 2015 8:53 am

This May will mark one year since we lost one of the most influential, inspirational, and powerful women to date: Maya Angelou, the best-selling author, poet, dancer, singer, actress, and icon.

That’s why we were super excited about the Maya Angelou Forever stamp, which features a gorgeous portrait (taken by Ross Rossin in 2013) of the author with a beautiful quote: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

“Maya Angelou inspired our nation through a life of advocacy and through her many contributions to the written and spoken word,” Postmaster General Megan Brennan said in a statement, according to USA Today. “Her wide-ranging achievements as a playwright, poet, memoirist, educator, and advocate for justice and equality enhanced our culture.”

We totally agree Brennan, and think the stamp is a beautiful, gorgeous idea. There’s just one problem: that quote about the bird? Yeah, it’s not hers.

The quote, in fact, is from 89-year-old children’s book author Joan Walsh Angland in her book, “A Cup Of Sun,” according to the Washington Post in an article published last night, the night before the stamp’s ceremony. The only difference is that pronouns were changed from “he” to “it.”

When The Washington Post informed Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders of the error, he explained via e-mail, “Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou’s] many other works. . . . The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”

There have been “numerous references” that claimed that Angelou had said the quote, according to Saunders—and he is, indeed, correct. The quote has been misattributed for years, via images on Pinterest, blog posts, and even President Obama himself in a 2013 presentation of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

“The late, great Maya Angelou once said, ‘A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song,'” said the president, according to the Washington Post. “Each of the men and women that we honor today has a song — literally, in some cases. For others, it’s a talent, or a drive, or a passion that they just had to share with the world.”

Angland was surprised to hear that her quote has been misattributed so widely for years, but she was totally OK with it. When the Washington Post reached out to Angland, she said, “Yes, that’s my quote. . . . I haven’t read all of [Maya Angelou’s] things, and I love her things, of course. But 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.”

The Postal Service had chosen the quote “to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.'” A great idea, in theory. . . unfortunately, that connection didn’t really exist.

“It’s an interesting connection, and interesting it would happen and already be printed and on her stamp,” Anglund said. “I love her and all she’s done, and I also love my own private thinking that also comes to the public because it comes from what I’ve been thinking and how I’ve been feeling.”

Well, no harm, no foul. We still totally love the stamp and will be using it on ALL our letters.

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