The US Postal Service’s attempt to commemorate the late author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has ended in farce, after a postage stamp bearing her image contained a quotation that was, in fact, attributed to somebody else.

According to the Washington Post on Tuesday, the words that appear on the stamp - “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” – would seem to make reference to Angelou’s 1969 autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

However, though these words are associated with her they were not actually written by Angelou, but instead by Joan Walsh Anglund in her 1967 book of poetry ‘A Cup of Sun’, with the “it” on the stamp changed from a “he”.

Maya Angelou
A memorial stamp for the late author Maya Angelou contained an erroneous quote

Anglund, now 89, confirmed this to the original reporters on Monday evening. Anglund does not begrudge the misattribution, and hopes that the stamp will be well-received despite the error. “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.

USPS spokesperson Mark Saunders made a statement that was also reported by the Washington Post. “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.”

The unveiling ceremony went ahead despite the report, with a number of speakers including Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey making powerful speeches in Angelou’s memory. The First Lady paid tribute by saying: “she taught us that we are each wonderfully made, intricately woven, and put on this earth for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine.”

Maya Angelou died on May 28th last year, at the age of 86.

More: Maya Angelou dies at the age of 86 – but her works will live on. Forever.