Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature and as a remarkable Renaissance woman. Being a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, Dr. Angelou continues to travel the world making appearances, spreading her legendary wisdom.
Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, falling on her birthday in 1968, left her devastated.
Her uncle killed her mother's boyfriend (because she admitted to him that her mother's boyfriend had molested her) and she did not speak to anyone except her brother for five entire years after the murder. She later said that she felt that her words had killed the man.
On December 1, 2005, Maya Angelou visited the White House, when she delivered her poem, Amazing Peace at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House.
1975-1976, Maya Angelou was appointed a member of American Revolution Bicentennial Council by President Gerald R. Ford.
In 1977, Maya Angelou appeared in the film Roots.
In 1957, Maya Angelou appeared in the Off-Broadway play "Calypso Heatwave".
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", is a chronicle of Maya Angelous's life up to age sixteen (and ending with the birth of her son, Guy)
Muhammad Ali met Malcolm X for the time at Maya Angelou's house.
Maya Angelou's mother is Vivian Baxter, a nurse and realtor.
Maya Angelous worked as an actual madam when she was in her twenties.
As a teenager, Maya Angelou lived car graveyard where other homeless children lived.
Maya Angelou lived with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas for several years.
Maya Angelou's parents got divorced when she was three years old.
Her father(Bailey Johnson)was a navy dietician.
Maya Angelou in her twenties when she performed as a dancer at the Purple Onion cabaret.
Maya Angelou received a lifetime achievement award by the Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards.
In 1964, May Angelou worked alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.
Maya Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was seven, and for five years afterwards communicated only with her brother Bailey.
She took the name Maya Angelou when she became a cabaret artist in her late twenties.
In 1993, Maya Angelou read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Clinton.
In 1960, Maya Angelou performed in Genet's "The Blacks" and her own "Cabaret for Freedom".
In the late 1950's, Maya Angelou sang in New York City nightclubs.
1954-1955 Maya Angelou toured Europe and Africa in the musical "Porgy and Bess".
Maya Angelou's autobiography borrows the first line of this poem by Harlem Renaissance poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy":
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core.
Before attending the several universities she went to, Maya was educated in public schools in Arkansas and San Francisco.
Maya is on the Women's Prison Association Advisory Board.
Maya was a UNICEF international ambassador in 1996.
Maya is a member of the Harlem Writter's Guild.
Maya is a member of the Director's Guild of America.
Maya wrote the screenplay for Georgia, Georgia and composed the score.
Maya received education from universities in America, Italy, and Ghana.
Nominated for a Tony Award for her first acting roll in Look Away.
Maya holds honorary degrees from many universities.
Maya can speak six languages fluently.
Maya is one of two poets to write original work to be recited at a presidential inauguration.
Since 1981 Dr. Angelou has been residing at Wake Forest University as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies, a lifetime appointment.
Her autobiography is a five-volume set.
Her first autobiography is titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
She wrote twelve books that made the international best seller list.
Maya's intention is to help people of all races in the struggle through their problems.
Maya "has a way of naturally developing beautiful and meaningful phrases" according to talk-show host, Travis Smiley.
Maya has hereditary roots in Ghana.
Maya feels her job is to present the truth, not to impact others as she does.
Maya feels 'courage is the greatest of all virtues' because it is necessary in order to practice the other virtues.
Maya feels that humanity is overcome with an 'epidemic of ignorance' and believes that conflicts are caused by a failure to understand each other.
Maya grew up in San Francisco and has lived in most regions of California.
She has a home in Harlem and one in the southern states.
Maya: 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.
Maya: Life is a gift, and i try to respond with grace and courtesy
Maya: Each of us has the right and the responsibility to asses the road which lie ahead and those over which we have traveled, and if the feature road looms ominous or unpromising, and the road back uninviting-inviting, then we need to gather our resolve and carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that one as well.
Maya: I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.
Maya: Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise.
Maya: 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.
Maya: Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
Maya: See, you don't have to think about doing the right thing if you are for the right thing then you'll do it without thinking.
Maya: The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Maya: Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.
Maya: Love builds up the broken wall and straightens the crooked path.
love keeps the stars in the firmament
and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides
each of us is created of it and I suspect each of us was created for it.
Maya: Everything has rhythm. everything dances.
Maya: I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
Maya: I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
Maya: When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from that grantor's gift.
Maya: I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life."
Maya: The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
Maya: This is my life. it is my one time to be me. i want to experience every good thing.
Maya: You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.
Maya: Love life, engage in it, give it all you've got. love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.
Maya: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya: If someone tells you who they are, believe them.
Maya: I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.
Maya: We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
Maya: When you learn, teach. When you get, give.
Maya: Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Maya: Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
Maya: While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God's creation.
Maya: We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
Maya: There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
Maya: The sadness of the women's movement is that they don't allow the necessity of love. See, I don't personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
Maya: The need for change bulldozed road down the center of my mind.
Maya: Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence - neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish - it is an imponderably valuable gift.
Maya: Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
Maya: Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Maya: Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaken need for an unshakable God.
Maya: My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
Maya: My life has been one great big joke, a dance that's walked a song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.
Maya: Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.
Maya: Life loves the liver of it.
Maya: It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
Maya: If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
Maya: If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
Maya: If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.
Maya: I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at commensurate speed.
Maya: I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.
Maya: I answer the heroic question "Death, where is they sting?" with "It is here in my heart and mind and memories."
Maya: I am overwhelmed by the grace and persistence of my people
Maya: For Africa to me... is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
Maya: Education helps one cease being intimidated by strange situations.
Maya: Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
Maya: Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
Maya: At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
Maya: As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.
Maya: Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya: All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.
Maya: All great achievements require time
Maya: A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning's greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.
Maya: Achievement brings its own anticlimax.
Maya: Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
Maya: I'm a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.
Maya: If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.
Maya: The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear.
Maya: There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.
Maya: Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.
Maya: I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.
Maya: Lyrical poetry is out for the time being, and something that is called rap or hip-hop is in. It is still poetry, and we can't live without it. We need language to tell us who we are, how we feel, what we're capable of -- to explain the pains and glory of our existence.
Maya: Some critics will write 'Maya Angelou is a natural writer' - which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.
Maya: Talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it.
Maya: The white American man makes the white American woman maybe not superfluous but just a little kind of decoration. Not really important to turning around the wheels of the state. Well the black American woman has never been able to feel that way. No black American man at any time in our history in the United States has been able to feel that he didn't need that black woman right against him, shoulder to shoulder -- in that cotton field, on the auction block, in the ghetto, wherever.
Maya: The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
Maya: If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.
Maya: Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.
Maya: You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Maya: Effective action is always unjust.
Maya: If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.
Maya: Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I'm with you kid Let's go."
Maya: Human beings are more alike than unalike, and what is true anywhere is true everywhere, yet I encourage travel to as many destinations as possible for the sake of education as well as pleasure.
Maya: We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
Maya: Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Maya: If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded
Maya: Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
Maya: Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean.
Maya: The main thing in one's own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.
Maya: There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
Maya: Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.
Maya: History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
Maya: Living a life is like constructing a building: if you start wrong, you'll end wrong.
Maya: I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
Maya: I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition -- about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive.
Maya: One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
Maya: The needs of society determine its ethics.
Maya: A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
Maya: It is this belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.
Maya: How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!