author | humanitarian
Maya Angelou is one of the most quoted women in the world...with good reason. From her first book to her last tweet, her words ~ whether carefully crafted or off-the-cuff ~ radiate grace, wit + wisdom. A precocious child rendered mute by abuse, Maya would go from single, teenage mom working odd jobs as a waitress, dancer and paint remover to internationally renowned author and civil rights leader.
By the time she passed away at 86, she had mastered 6 languages, written more than 30 best-sellers and been nominated for a Tony, Grammy, Emmy, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. A testament to the power of stories, Maya drew upon her love of language to tell "the truth of the human being."
courage + hope | in the face of oppression + adversity
being one of our best poets + storytellers | and daring to share her own story
trailblazing | the first African-American woman to conduct a cable car, write a screenplay that was filmed, and recite a poem for a presidential inauguration
1970 | published her first book, the profound and provocative memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which quickly established her international literary reputation despite its going on to be banned by thirty-nine public schools in the U.S.
1993 | delivered "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, only the 2nd poet selected to do so
2011 | presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama
from | to
dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, magazine editor | best-selling author nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, inaugural poet who served on 2 presidential committees, endowed professor with over 50 honorary degrees, Emmy- and Tony-nominated actor, 3-time Grammy winner for Best Spoken Word Album
April 4, 1928
St. Louis, Missouri
as a child...Rita, Ritie or Maya
The United States of America
Vivian Baxter + Bailey Johnson, Sr.
1 older brother | Bailey
literature + languages
~ a Greek sailor ~
Paul du Feu
~ previously married to feminist author Germaine Greer ~
and perhaps one or two others
1 son | Guy Johnson
advocate for | influenced by
Martin Luther King
in her spare time
loved cooking soul food
her favorite word
joy | the word she used to sign her books
May 28, 2014
~ Winston-Salem, North Carolina ~
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"Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you."I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | 1969
"You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise."Still I Rise | 1978
"Every human being has paid the earth to grow up...But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed."The Art of Fiction, no. 119 | fall 1990
"History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again."On the Pulse of Morning | january 1993
"I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory."Academy of Achievement | january 1997
"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me 'I love you.' . . . There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture | may 1997
"Heroism has nothing to do with skin color or social status. It is a state of mind and a willingness to act for what is right and just."Reflections on Working Toward Peace | 2000
"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back."The Oprah Winfrey Show | april 2000
"Life is a glorious banquet, a limitless and delicious buffet."Hallmark's Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection | january 2002
"We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas. We beckon this good season to wait a while with us."Amazing Peace | december 2005
"Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters, Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope, And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air. The world is encouraged to come away from rancor, Come the way of friendship."Amazing Peace | december 2005
"It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time...On this platform of peace, we can create a language—To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other."Amazing Peace | december 2005
"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."Letter to My Daughter | 2009
"I am convinced that most people do not grow up…our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias."Letter to My Daughter | october 2009
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."Facebook post | july 2011
"Sister, when you get, give. When you learn, teach."Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012
"I try to see every day as a celebration . . . So every day I awaken I am grateful."Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012
"I love the slow way of cooking...Not just for the taste, but because it infuses the house with an aroma that says 'You are welcome.'"Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012
"As we approach Thanksgiving; and as we experience it, and even after; I carefully maintain an attitude of gratitude. And, I have changed that old saying around from 'give 'til it hurts' and now I tell myself, give 'til it helps."Facebook post | november 2012
"If you develop the art of seeing us as more alike than we are unalike, then all stories are understandable."Harvard Business Review | may 2013
Maya passing time in her dressing room until showtime at the Village Vanguard.
Ebony | G. Marshall Wilson
Maya Angelou and James Baldwin
Maya visits with friend and literary mentor, James Baldwin, who encouraged her to write her critically acclaimed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Angelou-Johnson Family Archives
Poet Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem join a march in Washington in 1983
Civil rights leader Maya links arms with feminist activist Gloria Steinem to march together on DC.
James M. Thresher | The Washington Post
This publicity poster for a poetry reading at Boston College in March of 1984 accurately advertises Maya as a "woman of many talents."
Angelou delivers her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" on Jan. 19, 1993
Maya reads her now famous poem that impressed an international audience at President Bill Clinton's 1st inauguration.
NPR | The White House
Maya Angelou receives a Presidential Medal of Freedom
Maya received one of the highest honors in the nation from President Barack Obama.
Lawrence Jackson | Official White House Photo
Maya Angelou / US Olympics
Maya recites a poem she wrote in tribute to the US team headed to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Katya Bankowsky | Big City Pictures
Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou
Media magnet Oprah strikes an affectionate pose with her long-time mentor for a photo commemorating their last interview.
Joe Pugliese | O, The Oprah Magazine