Credit: Chester Higgins, Jr.
(b. April 4, 1928--d. May 28, 2014)
Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka cutting the rug and going for broke in both Art and Life...
Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South, Dies at 86
By MARGALIT FOX
MAY 28, 2014
New York Times
A Farewell to Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — a lyrical, unsparing account of her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.
Her death was confirmed by her literary agent, Helen Brann. The cause was not immediately known, but Ms. Brann said Ms. Angelou had been frail for some time and had heart problems.
In a statement, President Obama said, “Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman,” adding, “She inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.”
Though her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, garnered more critical praise than her poetry did, Ms. Angelou (pronounced AHN-zhe-low) very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered her inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president. He, like Ms. Angelou, had grown up in Arkansas.
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
RELATED IN OPINION:
Op-Ed Columnist: What Maya Angelou Meant to Me
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Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.
Long before that day, as she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to age 40), Ms. Angelou was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies.
In February 2011, Mr. Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual.
“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,” Ms. Angelou wrote in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Hallmarks of Ms. Angelou’s prose style included a directness of voice that recalls African-American oral tradition and gives her work the quality of testimony. She was also intimately concerned with sensation, describing the world around her — be it Arkansas, San Francisco or the foreign cities in which she lived — with palpable feeling for its sights, sounds and smells.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” published when Ms. Angelou was in her early 40s, spans only her first 17 years. But what powerfully formative years they were.
Marguerite Johnson was born in St. Louis on April 4, 1928. (For years after Dr. King’s assassination, on April 4, 1968, Ms. Angelou did not celebrate her birthday.) Her dashing, defeated father, Bailey Johnson Sr., a Navy dietitian, “was a lonely person, searching relentlessly in bottles, under women’s skirts, in church work and lofty job titles for his ‘personal niche,’ lost before birth and unrecovered since,” Ms. Angelou wrote. “How maddening it was to have been born in a cotton field with aspirations of grandeur.”
Her beautiful, volatile mother, Vivian Baxter, was variously a nurse, hotel owner and card dealer. (Ms. Angelou’s 2013 account of life with her mother, “Mom & Me & Mom,” became a best seller.) As a girl, Ms. Angelou was known as Rita, Ritie or Maya, her older brother’s childhood nickname for her.
After her parents’ marriage ended, 3-year-old Maya was sent with her 4-year-old brother, Bailey, to live with their father’s mother in the tiny town of Stamps, Ark., which, she later wrote, “with its dust and hate and narrowness was as South as it was possible to get.”
Their grandmother, Annie Henderson, owned a general store “in the heart of the Negro area,” Ms. Angelou wrote. An upright woman known as Momma, “with her solid air packed around her like cotton,” she is a warm, stabilizing presence throughout “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
The children returned periodically to St. Louis to live with their mother. On one such occasion, when Maya was 7 or 8 (her age varies slightly across her memoirs, which employ techniques of fiction to recount actual events), she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told her brother, who alerted the family, and the man was tried and convicted. Before he could begin serving his sentence, he was murdered — probably, Ms. Angelou wrote, by her uncles.
Believing that her words had brought about the death, Maya did not speak for the next five years. Her love of literature, as she later wrote, helped restore language to her.
As a teenager, living with her mother in San Francisco, she studied dance and drama at the California Labor School and became the first black woman to work as a streetcar conductor there. At 16, after a casual liaison with a neighborhood youth, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. There the first book ends.
Reviewing “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called it “a carefully wrought, simultaneously touching and comic memoir.”
The book — its title is a line from “Sympathy,” by the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar — became a best seller, confounding the stereotype, pervasive in the publishing world, that black women’s lives were rarely worthy of autobiography.
The five volumes of Ms. Angelou’s memoir that follow “Caged Bird” — all, like the first, originally published by Random House — were “Gather Together in My Name” (1974), “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” (1976), “The Heart of a Woman” (1981), “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” (1986) and “A Song Flung Up to Heaven” (2002).
They describe her struggles to support her son, Guy Johnson, through odd jobs. “Determined to raise him, I had worked as a shake dancer in nightclubs, fry cook in hamburger joints, dinner cook in a Creole restaurant and once had a job in a mechanic’s shop, taking paint off cars with my hands,” she wrote in “Singin’ and Swingin’.” Elsewhere, she described her short-lived stints as a prostitute and a madam.
Ms. Angelou goes on to recount her marriage to a Greek sailor, Tosh Angelos. (Throughout her life, she was cagey about the number of times she married — it appears to have been at least three — for fear, she said, of appearing frivolous.)
After the marriage dissolved, she embarked on a career as a calypso dancer and singer under the name Maya Angelou, a variant of her married name. A striking stage presence — she was six feet tall — she occasionally partnered in San Francisco with Alvin Ailey in a nightclub act known as Al and Rita.
She was cast in the Truman Capote-Harold Arlen musical “House of Flowers,” which opened on Broadway in 1954. But she chose instead to tour the world as a featured dancer in a production of “Porgy and Bess” by the Everyman Opera Company, a black ensemble.
Ms. Angelou later settled in New York, where she became active in the Harlem Writers Guild (she hoped to be a poet and playwright), sang at the Apollo and eventually succeeded Bayard Rustin as the coordinator of the New York office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization that he, Dr. King and others had founded.
In the early 1960s, Ms. Angelou became romantically involved with Vusumzi L. Make, a South African civil rights activist. She moved with him to Cairo, where she became the associate editor of a magazine, The Arab Observer. After leaving Mr. Make — she found him paternalistic and controlling, she later wrote — she moved to Accra, Ghana, where she was an administrative assistant at the University of Ghana.
On returning to New York, Ms. Angelou helped Malcolm X set up the Organization of Afro-American Unity, established in 1964. The group dissolved after his assassination the next year.
In 1973, Ms. Angelou appeared on Broadway in “Look Away,” a two-character play about Mary Todd Lincoln (played by Geraldine Page) and her seamstress. Though the play closed after one performance, Ms. Angelou was nominated for a Tony Award. On the screen, she portrayed Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the 1977 television mini-series “Roots,” and appeared in several feature films, including “How to Make an American Quilt” (1995).
Ms. Angelou’s marriage in the 1970s to Paul du Feu, who had previously been wed to the feminist writer Germaine Greer, ended in divorce. Survivors include her son, three grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Some reviewers expressed reservations about Ms. Angelou’s memoiristic style, calling it facile and solipsistic. Others criticized her poetry as being little more than prose with line breaks. But her importance as a literary, cultural and historical figure was amply borne out by the many laurels she received, including a spate of honorary doctorates.
Her other books include the volumes of poetry, “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie” (1971), “Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well” (1975), “And Still I Rise” (1978) and “Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?” (1983).
She released an album of songs, “Miss Calypso,” in 1957.
But she remained best known for her memoirs, a striking fact because she had never set out to be a memoirist. Near the end of “A Song Flung Up to Heaven,” Ms. Angelou recalls her response when Robert Loomis, who would become her longtime editor at Random House, first asked her to write an autobiography.
Still planning to be a playwright and poet, she demurred. Cannily, Mr. Loomis called her again.
“You may be right not to attempt autobiography, because it is nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature,” he said. “Almost impossible.”
Ms. Angelou replied, “I’ll start tomorrow.”
Maya Angelou's Civil Rights Legacy
by John Nichols
May 28, 2014
Dr. Maya Angelou wrote in her tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, "A Brave and Startling Truth," that "We must confess that we are the possible…. We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world." And Angelou was one of the wonders of the world. Her personal story was so rich, so varied, so remarkable in its diversity of experience that Walt Whitman must have imagined her when he spoke of the poet containing multitudes.
"To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn't have to go through half the things she has," my colleague Gary Younge wrote several years ago of the woman who danced with Alvin Ailey, cut a fine calypso album, sang at Harlem's Apollo Theatre, performed in the touring company of Porgy and Bess, appeared in the television mini-series Roots, wrote songs with Roberta Flack, compared notes with James Baldwin, earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poetry and global acclaim for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the 1969 book that was the first of a series of genre-expanding autobiographies. When President Obama presented her with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he noted that Angelou had "spoken to millions, including my mother, which is why my sister is named Maya."
Her artistic accomplishments alone would have been more than sufficient for a lifetime. But Angelou was, as well, an activist on behalf of the transformational causes of the eras in which she lived, from her birth in 1928 to her death Wednesday at age 86. She chronicled the anticolonial struggle in Africa (as the only woman editor of the Arab Observer newspaper); she knew Nelson Mandela before the South African freedom fighter began his long captivity; in Accra she was part of an expatriate community that included W.E.B. Du Bois; she joined Malcolm X in planning for an Organization of Afro-American Unity; she marched with Gloria Steinem; she inaugurated Bill Clinton; and she personally lobbied legislators on behalf of marriage equality—reminding them, "To love someone takes a lot of courage. So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person'?"
Maya Angelou was not only a participant in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. She was on staff. Inspired after hearing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at a church in Harlem, Angelou and actors Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge and Hugh Hurd organized a historic fund-raising revue for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a "Cabaret for Freedom" at the Village Gate jazz club. The show, for which Angelou served as writer and co-producer, proved to be such an artistic and financial success that the great organizer Bayard Rustin asked her to replace him as the director of the SCLC's New York office. She took the job, joining a circle of organizers and activists that included Rustin, labor leader A. Philip Randolph and Dr. King.
At a time when the profile of the movement was rising, Angelou helped to raise the resources that allowed King and others to organize historic challenges to the Jim Crow brutality she would later examine so brilliantly in her books. After Angelou left the SCLC, to marry an anti-apartheid organizer and then to move to Egypt, she remained deeply engaged with the civil rights struggle. She was in Ghana when the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. But Maya Angelou still marched.
Outside the American Embassy in Accra, Angelou and others rallied with signs calling for an end to segregation and apartheid.
Angelou returned to the United States in the mid-1960s and again found herself in the circle of civil rights activists. King, Rustin and Randolph had turned their focus toward economic justice issues, developing a "Freedom Budget For All Americans" that had as its goals:
* the abolition of poverty * guaranteed full employment * fair prices for farmers * fair wages for workers * housing and healthcare for all * the establishment of a progressive tax and fiscal policies that respected the needs of working families.
As King prepared for the 1968 "Poor People's Campaign," he met with Angelou and asked her to tour the country to help promote the initiative. She agreed. Before she embarked on the tour, she learned, on her fortieth birthday, that King had been assassinated. It was a devastating development that would, as Angelou recounts in her book A Song Flung Up to Heaven, turn her toward a deeper focus on writing. Yet, that writing remained infused with the sense and the spirit of the civil rights movement. That sensibility was so very present in "On the Pulse of Morning," the poem Angelou composed for the Clinton inaugural, with its lines:
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear…
Maya Angelou: Phenomenal Woman
May 28, 2014
When we learned of the death of Dr. Maya Angelou we at BK Nation decided to spend the entire day pulling together a diverse group of voices to honor and celebrate the passing of this giant of a shero. We worked without a break editing blogs, researching photos and videos of Ms. Angelou from various stages of her 86 years on this planet, created a timeline of her life, and have also included a listing of her literary works, and reflections by the famous and not famous. It is our humble hope that this tribute will be read, heard, shared by you, and that we’ve captured, in some small way, the beauty and the power of this incredible force gone but never forgotten.
—Kevin Powell, president and cofounder of BK Nation
This special tribute of blogs, videos, poems, quotes, a timeline & more, was produced by the BK Nation Editorial Team (Kevin Powell, Michael Cohen, Mia Legg) and interns (Caleb Bloomfield, Angela Bukur, Krystal Flowers, Brittany Henderson, Khari Randall, Cameron Wade and Ben Weitz).
She Gave Me My Name
By Mia Legg
Why The Caged Bird Still Sings
By Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D.
A Tribute to #MayaAngelou
By Angela Bukur
REFLECTIONS on Maya Angelou
An LGBTQ Appreciation
By Mark Zustovich
Tribute and Light to #MayaAngelou
By Jana Lynne Umipig
TIMELINE of Maya Angelou’s Life and Legacy
Maya Angelou and Pres. Bill Clinton
Maya Angelou: A Phenomenal Woman
By Kevin Powell
In Memory of Maya Angelou
By Dr. Walter Greason
QUOTES from Maya Angelou
I Need to Walk Outside
By David Bradburn
Maya and My Thighs: A Tribute to Maya Angelou
By Dominique Morisseau
VIDEO AND AUDIO of Maya Angelou
R.I.P. Maya Angelou
By Keith Chow
From Gravity Comes the Grief
By Dr. Jerry Ward
POETRY from Maya Angelou
On the Passing of Dr. Maya Angelou
By Dr. Chisara N. Asomugha
Angelou Gifted Me the Audacity to Saunter
By Mahogany Browne
AWARDS and LITERARY WORKS
Angelou at 15
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
By Jocelyn Womack
When I Heard of #MayaAngelou’s Passing
By Christina Stopka-Rinnert
Maya Angelou, Pres. Bill Clinton’s Inauguration
Maya Angelou: In the Moment, The Morning Maya Died
By April R. Silver
A Zeitgeist of the People: How #MayaAngelou Touched You and Your Heroes
By Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar
Maya Angelou: The Community’s Poet
By C. Liegh McInnis
In Your Words of Wisdom’s Love (Dr. Maya Angelou)
By Martin Daws
#MayaAngelou: Phenomenal Woman - BK Nation
An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou has had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood's first female black director, but is most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. By 1975, wrote Carol E. Neubauer in Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, "Angelou had become recognized not only as a spokesperson for blacks and women, but also for all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States." She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees.
Angelou’s most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), deals with her early years in Long Beach, St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas, where she lived with her brother and paternal grandmother. In one of its most evocative (and controversial) moments, Angelou describes how she was first cuddled then raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was just seven years old. When the man was murdered by her uncles for his crime, Angelou felt responsible, and stopped talking. Angelou remained mute for five years, but developed a love for language. She read black authors like Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, as well as canonical works by William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. When Angelou was twelve and a half, Mrs. Flowers, an educated black woman, finally got her to speak again. Mrs. Flowers, as Angelou recalled in her children’s book Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship (1986), emphasized the importance of the spoken word, explained the nature of and importance of education, and instilled in her a love of poetry. Angelou graduated at the top of her eighth-grade class.
Angelou attended George Washington High School in San Francisco and took lessons in dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. When Angelou, just 17, graduated from high school and gave birth to a son, Guy, she began to work as the first female and black street car conductor in San Francisco. As she explained in Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas (1976), the third of her autobiographies, she also "worked as a shake dancer in night clubs, fry cook in hamburger joints, dinner cook in a Creole restaurant and once had a job in a mechanic's shop, taking the paint off cars with my hands." Angelou married a white ex-sailor, Tosh Angelos, in 1950. After they separated, Angelou continued her study of dance in New York City, returning to San Francisco to sing in the Purple Onion cabaret and garnering the attention of talent scouts. From 1954 to 1955, she was a member of the cast of a touring production of Porgy and Bess. During the late 1950s, Angelou sang in West Coast and Hawaiian nightclubs, before returning to New York to continue her stage career.
Angelou joined the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s and met James Baldwin and other important writers. It was during this time that Angelou had the opportunity to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak. Inspired by his message, she decided to become a part of the struggle for civil rights. She was offered a position as the northern coordinator for Dr. King's SCLC. Following her work for Dr. King, Angelou moved to Cairo with her son, and, in 1962, to Ghana in West Africa. She worked as a freelance writer and was a feature editor at the African Review. When Angelou returned to the United States in the mid-1960s, she was encouraged by author James Baldwin and Robert Loomis, an editor at Random House, to write an autobiography. Initially, Angelou declined the offers, but eventually changed her mind and wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The book chronicles Angelou's childhood and ends with the birth of her son. It won immediate success and was nominated for a National Book Award.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first of Angelou’s six autobiographies. It is widely taught in schools, though it has faced controversy over its portrayal of race, sexual abuse and violence. Angelou’s use of fiction-writing techniques like dialogue and plot in her autobiographies was innovative for its time and helped, in part, to complicate the genre’s relationship with truth and memory. Though her books are episodic and tightly-crafted, the events seldom follow a strict chronology and are arranged to emphasize themes. Most critics have judged Angelou’s subsequent autobiographies in light of her first, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains the most highly praised. Other volumes include Gather Together in My Name (1974), which begins when Angelou is seventeen and a new mother; Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas, an account of her tour in Europe and Africa with Porgy and Bess; The Heart of a Woman (1981), a description of Angelou’s acting and writing career in New York and her work for the civil rights movement; and All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), which recounts Angelou's travels in West Africa and her decision to return, without her son, to America.
It took Angelou 15 years to write the final volume of her autobiography, A Song Flung up to Heaven (2002). The book covers four years, from the time Angelou returned from Ghana in 1964 through the moment when she sat down at her mother's table and began to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1968. Angelou hesitated so long to start the book and took so long to finish it, she told Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service interviewer Sherryl Connelly, because so many painful things happened to her, and to the entire African-American community, in those four years. "I didn't know how to write it," she said. "I didn't see how the assassination of Malcolm [X], the Watts riot, the breakup of a love affair, then [the assassination of Dr.] Martin [Luther] King [Jr.], how I could get all that loose with something uplifting in it." A Song Flung up to Heaven deals forthrightly with these events, and "the poignant beauty of Angelou's writing enhances rather than masks the candor with which she addresses the racial crisis through which America was passing," Wayne A. Holst wrote in Christian Century.
Angelou was also a prolific and widely-read poet, and her poetry has often been lauded more for its depictions of black beauty, the strength of women, and the human spirit; criticizing the Vietnam War; demanding social justice for all—than for its poetic virtue. Yet Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, which was published in 1971, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. This volume contains 38 poems, some of which were published in The Poetry of Maya Angelou (1969). According to Carol Neubauer in Southern Women Writers, "the first twenty poems describe the whole gamut of love, from the first moment of passionate discovery to the first suspicion of painful loss." In other poems, "Angelou turns her attention to the lives of black people in America from the time of slavery to the rebellious 1960s. Her themes deal broadly with the painful anguish suffered by blacks forced into submission, with guilt over accepting too much, and with protest and basic survival."
As Angelou wrote her autobiographies and poems, she continued her career in film and television. She was the first black woman to have a screenplay (Georgia, Georgia) produced in 1972. She was honored with a nomination for an Emmy award for her performance in Roots in 1977. In 1979, Angelou helped adapt her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, for a television movie of the same name. Angelou wrote the poetry for the 1993 film Poetic Justice and played the role of Aunt June. She also played Lelia Mae in the 1993 television film There Are No Children Here and appeared as Anna in the feature film How to Make an American Quilt in 1995.
One source of Angelou's fame in the early 1990s was President Bill Clinton's invitation to write and read the first inaugural poem. Americans all across the country watched as she read "On the Pulse of Morning," which begins "A Rock, a River, a Tree" and calls for peace, racial and religious harmony, and social justice for people of different origins, incomes, genders, and sexual orientations. It recalls the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech as it urges America to "Give birth again / To the Dream" of equality. Angelou challenged the new administration and all Americans to work together for progress: "Here, on the pulse of this new day, / You may have the grace to look up and out / And into your sister's eyes, and into / Your brother's face, your country /And say simply / Very simply / With hope—Good morning."
During the early 1990s, Angelou wrote several books for children, including Life Doesn't Frighten Me (1993), which also featured the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat; My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me (1994), and Kofi and His Magic (1996), both collaborations with the photographer Margaret Courtney-Clark. Angelou’s poetry collections include The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994) and Phenomenal Woman (1995), a collection of four poems that takes its title from a poem which originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1978. The poem’s narrator describes the physical and spiritual characteristics and qualities that make her attractive. Angelou has also written occasional poems, including A Brave Startling Truth (1995), which commemorated the founding of the United Nations, and Amazing Peace (2005), a poem written for the White House Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
Angelou has published multiple collections of essays. Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993) contains declarations, complaints, memories, opinions, and advice on subjects ranging from faith to jealousy. Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, described the essays as "quietly inspirational pieces." Anne Whitehouse of the New York Times Book Review observed that the book would "appeal to readers in search of clear messages with easily digested meanings." Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997) is the sister volume, a book of "candid and lovingly crafted homilies" to "sensuality, beauty, and black women" said Donna Seaman in Booklist. Letter to my Daughter was published in 2008.
Angelou’s poetry often benefits from her performance of it: Angelou usually recites her poems before spellbound crowds. Indeed, Angelou’s poetry can also be traced to African-American oral traditions like slave and work songs, especially in her use of personal narrative and emphasis on individual responses to hardship, oppression and loss. In addition to examining individual experience, Angelou’s poems often respond to matters like race and sex on a larger social and psychological scale. Describing her work to George Plimpton, Angelou has said, "Once I got into it I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass—the slave narrative—speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning 'we.' And what a responsibility. Trying to work with that form, the autobiographical mode, to change it, to make it bigger, richer, finer, and more inclusive in the twentieth century has been a great challenge for me."
In 2013 she was the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community. She died in 2014 at the age of 86.
Author, poet, scriptwriter, playwright, performer, actress, and composer. Arab Observer (English-language newsweekly), Cairo, Egypt, associate editor, 1961-62; University of Ghana, Institute of African Studies, Legon-Accra, Ghana, assistant administrator of School of Music and Drama, 1963-66; freelance writer for Ghanaian Times and Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation, 1963-65; African Review, Accra, feature editor, 1964-66. Lecturer at University of California, Los Angeles, 1966; writer-in-residence at University of Kansas, 1970; distinguished visiting professor at Wake Forest University, Wichita State University, and California State University, Sacramento, 1974; Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, 1981—; visiting professor, universities in the United States; lecturer at various locations in the United States. Southern Christian Leadership Conference, northern coordinator, 1959-60; appointed member of American Revolution Bicentennial Council by President Gerald R. Ford, 1975-76; member of the Presidential Commission for International Women's Year, 1978-79; Board of Governors, University of North Carolina, Maya Angelou Institute for the Improvement of Child & Family Education at Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC, 1998. Writer of poems for Hallmark greeting cards and gifts, 2002—. Host on XM Radio, 2006—. Appeared in Porgy and Bess on twenty- two nation tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, 1954-55; appeared in Off-Broadway plays, Calypso Heatwave, 1957, and Jean Genet's The Blacks, 1960; produced and performed in Cabaret for Freedom, Off-Broadway, 1960; appeared in Mother Courage at University of Ghana, 1964; appeared in Medea in Hollywood, 1966; television narrator, interviewer, and host for African American specials and theater series, 1972—; made Broadway debut in Look Away, 1973; directed film, All Day Long, 1974; appeared in television miniseries Roots, 1977; directed play, And Still I Rise, Oakland, CA, 1976; directed play, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, by Errol John, London, 1988; appeared as Aunt June in film, Poetic Justice, 1993; appeared as Lelia Mae in television film, There Are No Children Here, 1993; appeared in advertising for the United Negro College Fund, 1994; appeared as Anna in film, How to Make an American Quilt, 1995; narrator of the film The Journey of the August King, 1995; narrator of the video Elmo Saves Christmas, 1996; appeared in the film Down in the Delta, 1998; appeared in film The Amen Corner and television series Down in the Delta, both 1999; appeared as Conjure Woman in the television special The Runaway, 2000; appeared as herself in various television specials.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Random House (New York, NY), 1970, many reprintings.
Gather Together in My Name, Random House (New York, NY), 1974, many reprintings.
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
The Heart of a Woman, Random House (New York, NY), 1981.
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House (New York, NY), 1986, many reprintings.
A Song Flung up to Heaven, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou (omnibus edition of all six autobiographies), Modern Library (New York, NY), 2004.
Mom & Me & Mom, Random House (New York, NY), 2013.
Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, Random House (New York, NY), 1971, many reprintings.
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, Random House (New York, NY), 1975, many reprintings.
And Still I Rise, Random House (New York, NY), 1978, new version published as Still I Rise, illustrated by Diego Rivera, edited by Linda Sunshine, Random House (New York, NY), 2001, many reprintings.
Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?, Random House (New York, NY), 1983, many reprintings.
Poems, four volumes, Bantam (New York, NY), 1986.
Now Sheba Sings the Song (illustrated poem), illustrations by Tom Feelings, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.
I Shall Not Be Moved, Random House (New York, NY), 1990, many reprintings.
On the Pulse of Morning, Random House (New York, NY), 1993, many reprintings.
The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Random House (New York, NY), 1994, many reprintings.
A Brave and Startling Truth, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, Random House (New York, NY), 1995, new edition published as Phenomenal Woman, paintings by Paul Gaugin, edited by Linda Sunshine, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
Amazing Peace, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of The Poetry of Maya Angelou, 1969. Contributor of poems in The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets and to Mary Higgins Clark, Mother, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Lessons in Living, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.
Letter to my Daughter, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS
Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship (selection from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) illustrated by Etienne Delessert, Redpath Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1986.
Life Doesn't Frighten Me (poem), edited by Sara Jane Boyers, illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1993.
(With others) Soul Looks Back in Wonder, illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me, photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Crown (New York, NY), 1994.
Kofi and His Magic, photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Crown (New York, NY), 1996.
Angelina of Italy, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Izak of Lapland, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Renie Marie of France, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Mikale of Hawaii, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Godfrey Cambridge) Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), produced at Village Gate Theatre, New York, 1960.
The Least of These (two-act drama), produced in Los Angeles, 1966.
(Adapter) Sophocles, Ajax (two-act drama), produced at Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1974.
(And director) And Still I Rise (one-act musical), produced in Oakland, CA, 1976.
(Author of poems for screenplay) Poetic Justice (screenplay), Columbia Pictures, 1993.
(Author of lyrics, with Alistair Beaton) King, book by Lonne Elder, III, music by Richard Blackford, London, 1990.
Also author of the play Gettin' up Stayed on My Mind, 1967, a drama, The Best of These, a two-act drama, The Clawing Within, 1966, a two- act musical, Adjoa Amissah, 1967, and a one-act play, Theatrical Vignette, 1983.
FILM AND TELEVISION SCRIPTS
Georgia, Georgia (screenplay), Independent-Cinerama, 1972.
(And director) All Day Long (screenplay), American Film Institute, 1974.
(Writer of script and musical score) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, CBS, 1979.
Sister, Sister (television drama), National Broadcasting Co., Inc. (NBC-TV), 1982.
(Writer of poetry) John Singleton, Poetic Justice (motion picture), Columbia Pictures, 1993.
Composer of songs, including two songs for movie For Love of Ivy, and composer of musical scores for both her screenplays. Author of Black, Blues, Black, a series of ten one-hour programs, broadcast by National Educational Television (NET-TV), 1968. Also author of Assignment America, a series of six one-half-hour programs, 1975, and of The Legacy and The Inheritors, two television specials, 1976. Other documentaries include Trying to Make It Home (Byline series), 1988, and Maya Angelou's America: A Journey of the Heart (also host). Public Broadcasting Service Productions include Who Cares about Kids, Kindred Spirits, Maya Angelou: Rainbow in the Clouds, and To the Contrary. Writer for television series Brewster Place, Harpo Productions.
Miss Calypso (audio recording of songs), Liberty Records, 1957.
The Poetry of Maya Angelou (audio recording), GWP Records, 1969.
An Evening with Maya Angelou (audio cassette), Pacific Tape Library, 1975.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (audio cassette with filmstrip and teacher's guide), Center for Literary Review, 1978, abridged version, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.
Women in Business (audio cassette), University of Wisconsin, 1981.
Making Magic in the World (audio cassette), New Dimensions, 1988.
On the Pulse of Morning (audio production), Ingram, 1993.
Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (audio production), Ingram, 1993.
Phenomenal Woman (audio production), Ingram, 1995.
Been Found, 1996.
Conversations with Maya Angelou, edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot, Virago Press (London, England), 1989.
Maya Angelou (four-volume boxed set), Ingram (London, England), 1995.
(With Mary Ellen Mark) Mary Ellen Mark: American Odyssey, Aperture (New York, NY), 1998.
Great Food, All Day Long : Eat Joyfully, Eat Healthy, Virago Press (London, England), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style, Delta, 1993; Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists, Rizzoli International Publications, 1996; The Journey Back: A Survivor's Guide to Leukemia, Rainbow's End Company, 1996; The Challenge of Creative Leadership, Shephard-Walwyn, 1998; and Amistad: "Give Us Free": A Celebration of the Film by Stephen Spielberg, Newmarket Press, 1998. Author of forewords to African Canvas: The Art of African Women, by Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1991; Dust Tracks on the Road: An Autobiography, by Zora Neale Hurston, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991; Caribbean & African Cooking, by Rosamund Grant, Interlink (Northampton, MA), 1993;Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers & Daughters, HarperCollins, 1993; African Americans: A Portrait, by Richard A. Long, Crescent Books (New York, NY), 1993; and Essence: Twenty-five Years Celebrating Black Women, edited by Patricia M. Hinds, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1995; author of introduction to Not without Laughter, by Langston Hughes, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995; author of preface to Mending the World: Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers, edited by Rosemarie Robotham, BasicCivitas Books (New York, NY), 2003. Author, with Charlie Reilly and Amiri Bakara, Conversations with Amiri Bakara. Short stories are included in anthologies, including Harlem and Ten Times Black. Contributor of articles, short stories, and poems to national periodicals, including Harper's, Ebony, Essence, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Ladies' Home Journal, Black Scholar, Architectural Digest, New Perspectives Quarterly, Savvy Woman, and Ms. Magazine.
Angelou, Maya, Gather Together in My Name, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.
Angelou, Maya, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
Angelou, Maya, The Heart of a Woman, Random House (New York, NY), 1981.
Angelou, Maya, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.
Angelou, Maya, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
Angelou, Maya, Lessons in Living, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Angelou, Maya, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Angelou, Maya, A Song Flung up to Heaven, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.
Bloom, Harold, editor, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Chelsea House Publishers (New York, NY), 1995.
Braxton, Joanne M., editor, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography Supplement: Modern Writers, 1900-1998, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, Book 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, second edition, seventeen volumes, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Evans, Mari, editor, Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, Anchor Press-Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.
Inge, Tonette Bond, editor, Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1990.
King, Sarah E., Maya Angelou: Greeting the Morning, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1994.
Kirkpatrick, Patricia, compiler, Maya Angelou, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2003.
Lisandrelli, Elaine Slivinski, Maya Angelou: More than a Poet, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1996.
Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them, Volume 4: World War II to the Affluent Fifties (1940s-1950s), Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Newsmakers 1993, Issue 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Notable Black American Women, Book 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Poetry Criticism, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, five volumes, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, second edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Spain, Valerie, Meet Maya Angelou, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
Women Filmmakers and Their Films, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Writers for Young Adults, three volumes, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1997.
Artforum International, December, 1993, Dan Cameron, review of Life Doesn't Frighten Me, p. 74.
Black American Literature Forum, summer, 1990, Mary Jane Lupton, "Singing the Black Mother: Maya Angelou and Autobiographical Continuity," pp. 257-276.
Black Issues Book Review, March, 2001, Maitefa Angaza, "Maya: A Precious Prism," p. 30; March-April, 2002, Elsie B. Washington, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, pp. 56-57.
Book, March-April, 2002, Beth Kephart, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. 72.
Booklist, January 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Life Doesn't Frighten Me, pp. 829-830; October 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me, p. 329; August, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of Even the Stars Look Lonesome, p. 1842; January 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. 774.
Christian Century, June 19, 2002, Wayne A. Holst, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, pp. 35-36.
Ebony, February, 1999, review of Down in the Delta, p. 96.
Essence, December, 1992, Marcia Ann Gillespie, interview with Angelou, pp. 48-52; August, 1998, Lisa Funderberg, interview with Angelou and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, pp. 70-76.
Five Owls, September, 1995, p. 2.
Gentlemen's Quarterly, July, 1995, Freda Garmaise, "Maya-ness Is Next to Godlinesss," p. 33.
Herizons, winter, 2003, Heather Marie, review of A Song Flung Up to Heaven, pp. 40-41.
Jet, December 21, 1998, review of Down in the Delta, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. 25.
Kliatt, July, 2002, Janet Julian, review of Even the Stars Look Lonesome, p. 58.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 5, 1997, Fon Louise Gordon, review of Even the Stars Look Lonesome, p. 1105K5928; March 14, 2002, Leigh Dyer, "Shrugging off Criticism, Angelou Relishes Getting Her Words before So Many," p. K0392; April 3, 2002, Cassandra Spratling, "Maya Angelou, Still Rising: Turbulent Times Mark the Celebrated Author's Latest Memoir," p. K7652; April 10, 2002, Sherryl Connelly, "Maya Angelou, a Life Well Chronicled," p. K2443; April 30, 2002, Lamar Wilson, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. K4586.
Library Journal, October 1, 1995, p. 102; September 15, 1997, Ann Burns, review of Even the Stars Look Lonesome, p. 74; March 15, 2002, Amy Strong, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, pp. 79-80.
Mother Jones, May-June, 1995, Ken Kelley, interview with Angelou, pp. 22-25.
National Post, July 20, 2002, Marcie Good, "Inspiration for Hire: Hallmark Has Hired Poet Maya Angelou," p. SP1.
National Review, November 29, 1993, Richard Grenier, review of Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, p. 76.
New Republic, May 20, 2002, John McWhorter, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. 35.
New York Times, January 20, 1993, Catherine S. Manegold, "A Wordsmith at Her Inaugural Anvil," pp. C1, C8.
New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1974, Annie Gottlieb, review of Gather Together in My Name; December 19, 1993, Anne Whitehouse, review of Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, p. 18; June 5, 1994, p. 48.
Paris Review, fall, 1990, Maya Angelou, and George Plimpton, "The Art of Fiction CXIX: Maya Angelou," pp. 145-167.
People, January 11, 1999, review of Down in the Delta, p. 35.
Poetry, August, 1976, Sandra M. Gilbert, review of Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well.
Publishers Weekly, September 20, 1993, review of Life Doesn't Frighten Me, p. 71; September 27, 1993, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, pp. 53-54; September 12, 1994, review of My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me, p. 91; August 4, 1997, review of Even the Stars Look Lonesome, pp. 54-55.
School Library Journal, October, 1987, Joseph Harper, review of Now Sheba Sings the Song, p. 146; May, 1995, p. 57; July, 2002, Karen Sokol, review of A Song Flung up to Heaven, p. 144.
Smithsonian, April, 2003, Lucinda Moore, interview with Angelou, p. 96.
Southern Literary Journal, fall, 1998, Marion M. Tangum, "Hurston's and Angelou's Visual Art: The Distancing Vision and the Beckoning Gaze," p. 80.
Variety, September 21, 1998, Joe Leydon, review of Down in the Delta, p. 110.
Official Maya Angelou Web site, http://www.mayaangelou.com/ (April 24, 2004).
POEMS, ARTICLES, and MORE
Discover this poet’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.
POEMS BY MAYA ANGELOU
A Plagued Journey
Awaking in New York
More poems by Maya Angelou
Marguerite Annie Johnson
April 4, 1928
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
May 28, 2014 (aged 86)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Poet, civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
"On the Pulse of Morning"
Tosh Angelos (1951–1954, div.)
Paul du Feu (1973–1981, div.)
Maya Angelou (/ˈmaɪ.ə ˈændʒəloʊ/; born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than 50 years. She received dozens of awards and over 30 honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen and brought her international recognition and acclaim.
She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. From 1982, she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson of black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries, but her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou's major works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.
1 Life and career
1.1 Early years
1.2 Adulthood and early career: 1951–61
1.3 Africa to Caged Bird: 1961–69
1.4 Later career
1.5 Personal life
2.1 Chronology of autobiographies
3 Reception and legacy
3.2 Critical reception
3.3 Awards and honors
3.4 Uses in education
5 Style and genre in autobiographies
6.1 Explanatory notes
6.3 Works cited
7 External links
Life and career
And Angelou's life has certainly been a full one: from the hardscrabble Depression era South to pimp, prostitute, supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, journalist in Egypt and Ghana in the heady days of decolonization, comrade of Malcolm X, and eyewitness to the Watts riots. She knew King and Malcolm, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln.
Reviewer John McWhorter, The New Republic (McWhorter, p. 36)
To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn't have to go through half the things she has.
The Guardian writer Gary Younge, 2009
Four years later, the children's father "came to Stamps without warning" and returned them to their mother's care in St. Louis. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou's uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone ..." According to Marcia Ann Gillespie and her colleagues, who wrote a biography about Angelou, it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her.
Shortly after Freeman's murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again, who had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, Angelou attended the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson).
Angelou's second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name (1974), recounts her life from age 17 to 19 and "depicts a single mother's slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime." Angelou worked as "the front woman/business manager for prostitutes," restaurant cook, and prostitute. She moved through a series of relationships, occupations, and cities as she attempted to raise her son without job training or advanced education.
Adulthood and early career: 1951–61
Angelou's first album, Miss Calypso, produced in 1957, was made possible due to the popularity of her nightclub act.
In 1951, Angelou married Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother.[note 3] She took modern dance classes during this time, and met dancers and choreographers Alvin Ailey and Ruth Beckford. Angelou and Ailey formed a dance team, calling themselves "Al and Rita", and performed modern dance at fraternal black organizations throughout San Francisco, but never became successful. Angelou, her new husband, and her son moved to New York City so she could study African dance with Trinidadian dancer Pearl Primus, but they returned to San Francisco a year later.
After Angelou's marriage ended in 1954, she danced professionally in clubs around San Francisco, including the nightclub the Purple Onion, where she sang and danced to calypso music. Up to that point she went by the name of "Marguerite Johnson", or "Rita", but at the strong suggestion of her managers and supporters at the Purple Onion she changed her professional name to "Maya Angelou", a "distinctive name" that set her apart and captured the feel of her calypso dance performances. During 1954 and 1955, Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She began her practice of learning the language of every country she visited, and in a few years she gained proficiency in several languages. In 1957, riding on the popularity of calypso, Angelou recorded her first album, Miss Calypso, which was reissued as a CD in 1996. She appeared in an off-Broadway review that inspired the film Calypso Heat Wave, in which Angelou sang and performed her own compositions.[note 4][note 5]
Angelou met novelist James O. Killens in 1959, and at his urging, moved to New York to concentrate on her writing career. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild, where she met several major African-American authors, including John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall, and Julian Mayfield, and was published for the first time. In 1960, after meeting civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and hearing him speak, she and Killens organized "the legendary" Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC's Northern Coordinator. According to scholar Lyman B. Hagen, her contributions to civil rights as a fundraiser and SCLC organizer were successful and "eminently effective". Angelou also began her pro-Castro and anti-apartheid activism during this time.
Africa to Caged Bird: 1961–69
Most of Angelou's time in Africa was spent in Accra, Ghana, shown here in 2008.
In 1961, Angelou performed in Jean Genet's play The Blacks, along with Abbey Lincoln, Roscoe Lee Brown, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Godfrey Cambridge, and Cicely Tyson. That year she met South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make; they never officially married. She and her son Guy moved with Make to Cairo, where Angelou worked as an associate editor at the weekly English-language newspaper The Arab Observer. In 1962, her relationship with Make ended, and she and Guy moved to Accra, Ghana, he to attend college, but he was seriously injured in an automobile accident.[note 6] Angelou remained in Accra for his recovery and ended up staying there until 1965. She became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana, and worked and performed for Ghana's National Theatre. She performed in a revival of The Blacks in Geneva and Berlin.
In Accra, she became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early 1960s.[note 7] Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward. Devastated and adrift, she joined her brother in Hawaii, where she resumed her singing career, and then moved back to Los Angeles to focus on her writing career. She worked as a market researcher in Watts and witnessed the riots in the summer of 1965. She acted in and wrote plays, and returned to New York in 1967. She met her lifelong friend Rosa Guy and renewed her friendship with James Baldwin, whom she had met in Paris in the 1950s and called "my brother", during this time. Her friend Jerry Purcell provided Angelou with a stipend to support her writing.
Angelou's friend James Baldwin was instrumental in the publication of her first autobiography.
In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. asked Angelou to organize a march. She agreed, but "postpones again", and in what Gillespie calls "a macabre twist of fate", he was assassinated on her 40th birthday (April 4).[note 8] Devastated again, she was encouraged out of her depression by her friend James Baldwin. As Gillespie states, "If 1968 was a year of great pain, loss, and sadness, it was also the year when America first witnessed the breadth and depth of Maya Angelou's spirit and creative genius". Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans' African heritage, and what Angelou called the "Africanisms still current in the U.S." for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS. Also in 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969, which brought her international recognition and acclaim.
Angelou's Georgia, Georgia, produced by a Swedish film company and filmed in Sweden, the first screenplay written by a black woman, was released in 1972. She also wrote the film's soundtrack, despite having very little additional input in the filming of the movie.[note 9] Angelou married Welsh carpenter and ex-husband of Germaine Greer, Paul du Feu, in San Francisco in 1973.[note 10] In the next ten years, as Gillespie has stated, "She had accomplished more than many artists hope to achieve in a lifetime". She worked as a composer, writing for singer Roberta Flack, and composing movie scores. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, documentaries, autobiographies, and poetry, produced plays, and was named visiting professor at several colleges and universities. She was "a reluctant actor", and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her role in Look Away. In 1977, Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots. She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.
In the late 1970s, Angelou met Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was a TV anchor in Baltimore, Maryland; Angelou would later become Winfrey's close friend and mentor.[note 11] In 1981, Angelou and du Feu divorced. She returned to the southern United States in 1981, where she accepted the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. From that point on, she considered herself "a teacher who writes". Angelou taught a variety of subjects that reflected her interests, including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing.
Maya Angelou speaking at a rally for Barack Obama, 2008
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Her recitation resulted in more fame and recognition for her previous works, and broadened her appeal "across racial, economic, and educational boundaries". The recording of the poem was awarded a Grammy Award. In June 1995, she delivered what Richard Long called her "second 'public' poem", entitled "A Brave and Startling Truth", which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Angelou achieved her goal of directing a feature film in 1996, Down in the Delta, which featured actors such as Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. Beginning in the 1990s, Angelou actively participated in the lecture circuit in a customized tour bus, something she continued into her eighties. In 2000, she created a successful collection of products for Hallmark, including greeting cards and decorative household items. Over thirty years after Angelou began writing her life story, she completed her sixth autobiography A Song Flung Up to Heaven, in 2002. In 2013, at the age of 85, she published the seventh autobiography in her series, Mom & Me & Mom, which focused on her relationship with her mother.
Angelou campaigned for the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential primaries, giving her public support to Senator Hillary Clinton. In the run up to the January Democratic primary in South Carolina, the Clinton campaign ran ads featuring Angelou's endorsement. The ads were part of the campaign's efforts to rally support in the Black community;  but Obama won the South Carolina primary; finishing 29 points ahead of Clinton and taking 80% of the Black vote. When Clinton's campaign ended, Angelou put her support behind Senator Barack Obama, who went on to win the election and become the first African American president of the United States. She stated, "We are growing up beyond the idiocies of racism and sexism". In late 2010, Angelou donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. They consisted of over 340 boxes of documents that featured her handwritten notes on yellow legal pads for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a 1982 telegram from Coretta Scott King, fan mail, and personal and professional correspondence from colleagues such as her editor Robert Loomis.
I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.
Maya Angelou, 1999
I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.
Maya Angelou, 1984
Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me. It's like a swimmer in the [English] Channel: you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the other shore, and you put your foot on the ground—Aaaahhhh!
Maya Angelou, 1989
Evidence suggests that Angelou was partially descended from the Mende people of West Africa.[note 12] A 2008 PBS documentary found that Angelou's maternal great-grandmother Mary Lee, who had been emancipated after the Civil War, became pregnant by her former white owner, John Savin. Savin forced Lee to sign a false statement accusing another man of being the father of her child. After indicting Savin for forcing Lee to commit perjury, and despite discovering that Savin was the father, a jury found him not guilty. Lee was sent to the Clinton County poorhouse in Missouri with her daughter, Marguerite Baxter, who became Angelou's grandmother. Angelou described Lee as "that poor little Black girl, physically and mentally bruised."
The details of Angelou's life described in her seven autobiographies and in numerous interviews, speeches, and articles tended to be inconsistent. Critic Mary Jane Lupton has explained that when Angelou spoke about her life, she did so eloquently but informally and "with no time chart in front of her". For example, she was married at least twice, but never clarified the number of times she has been married, "for fear of sounding frivolous"; according to her autobiographies and to Gillespie, she married Tosh Angelos in 1951 and Paul du Feu in 1973, and began her relationship with Vusumzi Make in 1961, but never formally married him. Angelou had one son Guy, whose birth was described in her first autobiography, one grandson, and two great-grandchildren, and according to Gillespie, a large group of friends and extended family.[note 13] Angelou's mother Vivian Baxter and brother Bailey Johnson, Jr., both of whom were important figures in her life and her books, have died; her mother in 1991 and her brother in 2000 after a series of strokes.[note 14] In 1981, the mother of her son Guy's child disappeared with Angelou's grandson; it took eight years to find him.[note 15] In 2009, the gossip website TMZ erroneously reported that Angelou had been hospitalized in Los Angeles when she was alive and well in St. Louis, which resulted in rumors of her death and according to Angelou, concern with her friends and family worldwide.
She did not earn a university degree, but according to Gillespie it was Angelou's preference that she be called "Dr. Angelou" by people outside of her family and close friends. As of 2008, she owned two homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a "lordly brownstone" in Harlem, full of her "growing library" of books she collected throughout her life, artwork collected over the span of many decades, and well-stocked kitchens. Younge has reported that in her Harlem home resides several African wall hangings and Angelou's collection of paintings, including ones of several jazz trumpeters, a watercolor of Rosa Parks, and a Faith Ringgold work entitled "Maya's Quilt Of Life". According to Gillespie, she hosted several celebrations per year at her main residence in Winston-Salem, including Thanksgiving; "her skill in the kitchen is the stuff of legend—from haute cuisine to down-home comfort food". She combined her cooking and writing skills in her 2004 book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, which featured 73 recipes, many of which she learned from her grandmother and mother, accompanied by 28 vignettes. She followed up with her second cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart in 2010, which focused on weight loss and portion control.
Beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou used the same "writing ritual" for many years. She would wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to play solitaire, Roget's Thesaurus, and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She would average 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she edited down to three or four pages in the evening.[note 16] Angelou went through this process to "enchant" herself, and as she said in a 1989 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, "relive the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang." She placed herself back in the time she wrote about, even traumatic experiences like her rape in Caged Bird, in order to "tell the human truth" about her life. Angelou stated that she played cards in order to get to that place of enchantment and in order to access her memories more effectively. She stated, "It may take an hour to get into it, but once I'm in it—ha! It's so delicious!" She did not find the process cathartic; rather, she found relief in "telling the truth".
Angelou died on the morning of May 28, 2014, according to a family statement. She was found by her nurse. Although Angelou had reportedly been in poor health and had canceled recent scheduled appearances, she was working on another book, an autobiography about her experiences with national and world leaders.
Tributes to Angelou and condolences were paid by artists, entertainers, and world leaders, including Barack Obama, whose sister had been named after Angelou, and Bill Clinton. Harold Augenbraum, from the National Book Foundation, said that Angelou's "legacy is one that all writers and readers across the world can admire and aspire to."
On May 29, 2014, Mount Zion Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, of which Angelou was a member for 30 years, held a public memorial service to honor Angelou.
Main article: List of Maya Angelou works
Angelou wrote a total of seven autobiographies. According to scholar Mary Jane Lupton, Angelou's third autobiography Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas marked the first time a well-known African American autobiographer had written a third volume about her life. Her books "stretch over time and place", from Arkansas to Africa and back to the U.S., and take place from the beginnings of World War II to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. She published her seventh autobiography Mom & Me & Mom in 2013, at the age of 85. Critics have tended to judge Angelou's subsequent autobiographies "in light of the first", with Caged Bird receiving the highest praise. Angelou wrote five collections of essays, which writer Hilton Als called her "wisdom books" and "homilies strung together with autobiographical texts". Angelou used the same editor throughout her writing career, Robert Loomis, an executive editor at Random House; he retired in 2011 and has been called "one of publishing's hall of fame editors." Angelou said regarding Loomis: "We have a relationship that's kind of famous among publishers".
All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
Angelou's long and extensive career also includes poetry, plays, screenplays for television and film, directing, acting, and public speaking. She was a prolific writer of poetry; her volume Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and she was chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" during his inauguration in 1993.
Angelou's successful acting career included roles in numerous plays, films, and television programs, including her appearance in the television mini-series Roots in 1977. Her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia (1972), was the first original script by a black woman to be produced and she was the first African American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998.
Chronology of autobiographies
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969): Up to 1944 (age 17)
Gather Together in My Name (1974): 1944–1948
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976): 1949–1955
The Heart of a Woman (1981): 1957–1962
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986): 1962–1965
A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002): 1965–1968
Mom & Me & Mom (2013): overview
Reception and legacy
President Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011
When I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969, Angelou was hailed as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who were able to publicly discuss their personal lives. According to scholar Hilton Als, up to that point, black female writers were marginalized to the point that they were unable to present themselves as central characters in the literature they wrote. Scholar John McWhorter agreed, seeing Angelou's works, which he called "tracts", as "apologetic writing". He placed Angelou in the tradition of African-American literature as a defense of black culture, which he called "a literary manifestation of the imperative that reigned in the black scholarship of the period". Writer Julian Mayfield, who called Caged Bird "a work of art that eludes description", argued that Angelou's autobiographies set a precedent for not only other black women writers, but also African American autobiography as a whole. Als said that Caged Bird marked one of the first times that a black autobiographer could, as he put it, "write about blackness from the inside, without apology or defense". Through the writing of her autobiography, Angelou became recognized and highly respected as a spokesperson for blacks and women. It made her "without a doubt, ... America's most visible black woman autobiographer", and "a major autobiographical voice of the time". As writer Gary Younge said, "Probably more than almost any other writer alive, Angelou's life literally is her work".
Author Hilton Als said that Caged Bird helped increase black feminist writings in the 1970s, less through its originality than "its resonance in the prevailing Zeitgeist", or the time in which it was written, at the end of the American Civil Rights movement. Als also claimed that Angelou's writings, more interested in self-revelation than in politics or feminism, have freed other female writers to "open themselves up without shame to the eyes of the world". Angelou critic Joanne M. Braxton stated that Caged Bird was "perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing" autobiography written by an African-American woman in its era.
Reviewer Elsie B. Washington, most likely due to President Clinton's choice of Angelou to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at his 1993 inauguration, has called Angelou "the black woman's poet laureate". Sales of the paperback version of her books and poetry rose by 300–600% the week after Angelou's recitation. Random House, which published the poem later that year, had to reprint 400,000 copies of all her books to keep up with the demand. They sold more of her books in January 1993 than they did in all of 1992, accounting for a 1200% increase. Angelou famously said, in response to criticism regarding using the details of her life in her work, "I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, 'I write for money'". Younge, speaking after the publication of Angelou's third book of essays, Letter to My Daughter (2008), has said, "For the last couple of decades she has merged her various talents into a kind of performance art—issuing a message of personal and social uplift by blending poetry, song and conversation".
Angelou's books, especially I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, have been criticized by many parents, causing their removal from school curricula and library shelves. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, parents and schools have objected to Caged Bird's depictions of lesbianism, premarital cohabitation, pornography, and violence. Some have been critical of the book's sexually explicit scenes, use of language, and irreverent religious depictions. Caged Bird appeared third on the American Library Association (ALA) list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 and sixth on the ALA's 2000–2009 list.[124
Awards and honors
Main article: List of honors received by Maya Angelou
Angelou was honored by universities, literary organizations, government agencies, and special interest groups. Her honors included a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play Look Away, and three Grammys for her spoken word albums. She served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Angelou was awarded over fifty honorary degrees.
Uses in education
Angelou's autobiographies have been used in narrative and multicultural approaches in teacher education. Jocelyn A. Glazier, a professor at George Washington University, has trained teachers how to "talk about race" in their classrooms with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together in My Name. According to Glazier, Angelou's use of understatement, self-mockery, humor, and irony have left readers of Angelou's autobiographies unsure of what she left out and how they should respond to the events she described. Angelou's depictions of her experiences of racism have forced white readers to explore their feelings about race and their own "privileged status". Glazier found that critics have focused on where Angelou fits within the genre of African-American autobiography and on her literary techniques, but readers have tended to react to her storytelling with "surprise, particularly when [they] enter the text with certain expectations about the genre of autobiography".
Educator Daniel Challener, in his 1997 book Stories of Resilience in Childhood, analyzed the events in Caged Bird to illustrate resiliency in children. Challener argued that Angelou's book has provided a "useful framework" for exploring the obstacles many children like Maya have faced and how communities have helped them succeed. Psychologist Chris Boyatzis has reported using Caged Bird to supplement scientific theory and research in the instruction of child development topics such as the development of self-concept and self-esteem, ego resilience, industry versus inferiority, effects of abuse, parenting styles, sibling and friendship relations, gender issues, cognitive development, puberty, and identity formation in adolescence. He found the book a "highly effective" tool for providing real-life examples of these psychological concepts.
Main article: Poetry of Maya Angelou
Angelou is best known for her seven autobiographies, but she was also a prolific and successful poet. She was called "the black woman's poet laureate", and her poems have been called the anthems of African Americans. Angelou studied and began writing poetry at a young age, and used poetry and other great literature to cope with her rape as a young girl, as described in Caged Bird. According to scholar Yasmin Y. DeGout, literature also affected Angelou's sensibilities as the poet and writer she became, especially the "liberating discourse that would evolve in her own poetic canon".
Many critics consider Angelou's autobiographies more important than her poetry. Although her books have been best-sellers, her poetry has not been perceived to be as serious as her prose and has been understudied. Her poems were more interesting when she recited and performed them, and many critics emphasized the public aspect of her poetry. Angelou's lack of critical acclaim has been attributed to both the public nature of many of her poems and to Angelou's popular success, and to critics' preferences for poetry as a written form rather than a verbal, performed one. Burr has countered Angelou's critics by condemning them for not taking into account Angelou's larger purposes in her writing: "to be representative rather than individual, authoritative rather than confessional".
Style and genre in autobiographies
Main article: Themes in Maya Angelou's autobiographies
Angelou's use of fiction-writing techniques such as dialogue, characterization, and development of theme, setting, plot, and language has often resulted in the placement of her books into the genre of autobiographical fiction. Angelou made a deliberate attempt in her books to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Scholar Mary Jane Lupton argues that all of Angelou's autobiographies conform to the genre's standard structure: they are written by a single author, they are chronological, and they contain elements of character, technique, and theme. Angelou recognizes that there are fictional aspects to her books; Lupton agrees, stating that Angelou tended to "diverge from the conventional notion of autobiography as truth", which parallels the conventions of much of African-American autobiography written during the abolitionist period of U.S. history, when as both Lupton and African-American scholar Crispin Sartwell put it, the truth was censored out of the need for self-protection. Scholar Lyman B. Hagen places Angelou in the long tradition of African-American autobiography, but claims that Angelou created a unique interpretation of the autobiographical form.
Angelou at York College in February 2013
According to African American literature scholar Pierre A. Walker, the challenge for much of the history of African-American literature was that its authors have had to confirm its status as literature before they could accomplish their political goals, which was why Angelou's editor Robert Loomis was able to dare her into writing Caged Bird by challenging her to write an autobiography that could be considered "high art". Angelou acknowledged that she followed the slave narrative tradition of "speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning 'we'". Scholar John McWhorter calls Angelou's books "tracts" that defend African-American culture and fight negative stereotypes. According to McWhorter, Angelou structured her books, which to him seem to be written more for children than for adults, to support her defense of black culture. McWhorter sees Angelou as she depicts herself in her autobiographies "as a kind of stand-in figure for the black American in Troubled Times". McWhorter views Angelou's works as dated, but recognizes that "she has helped to pave the way for contemporary black writers who are able to enjoy the luxury of being merely individuals, no longer representatives of the race, only themselves. Scholar Lynn Z. Bloom compares Angelou's works to the writings of Frederick Douglass, stating that both fulfilled the same purpose: to describe black culture and to interpret it for their wider, white audiences.
According to scholar Sondra O'Neale, Angelou's poetry can be placed within the African-American oral tradition, and her prose "follows classic technique in nonpoetic Western forms". O'Neale states that Angelou avoided using a "monolithic black language", and accomplished, through direct dialogue, what O'Neale calls a "more expected ghetto expressiveness". McWhorter finds both the language Angelou used in her autobiographies and the people she depicted unrealistic, resulting in a separation between her and her audience. As McWhorter states, "I have never read autobiographical writing where I had such a hard time summoning a sense of how the subject talks, or a sense of who the subject really is". McWhorter asserts, for example, that key figures in Angelou's books, like herself, her son Guy, and mother Vivian do not speak as one would expect, and that their speech is "cleaned up" for her readers. Guy, for example, represents the young black male, while Vivian represents the idealized mother figure, and the stiff language they use, as well as the language in Angelou's text, is intended to prove that blacks can competently use standard English.
McWhorter recognizes that much of the reason for Angelou's style was the "apologetic" nature of her writing. When Angelou wrote Caged Bird at the end of the 1960s, one of the necessary and accepted features of literature at the time was "organic unity", and one of her goals was to create a book that satisfied that criteria. The events in her books were episodic and crafted like a series of short stories, but their arrangements did not follow a strict chronology. Instead, they were placed to emphasize the themes of her books, which include racism, identity, family, and travel. English literature scholar Valerie Sayers has asserted that "Angelou's poetry and prose are similar". They both rely on her "direct voice", which alternates steady rhythms with syncopated patterns and uses similes and metaphors (e.g., the caged bird). According to Hagen, Angelou's works were influenced by both conventional literary and the oral traditions of the African-American community. For example, she referenced over 100 literary characters throughout her books and poetry. In addition, she used the elements of blues music, including the act of testimony when speaking of one's life and struggles, ironic understatement, and the use of natural metaphors, rhythms, and intonations. Angelou, instead of depending upon plot, used personal and historical events to shape her books.
^ Angelou wrote about Vivian Baxter's life and their relationship in Mom & Me & Mom (2013), her final installment in her series of seven autobiographies.
^ According to Angelou, Annie Henderson built her business with food stalls catering to black workers, which eventually developed into a store.
^ The correct Greek spelling of Angelou's husband name is probably "Anastasios Angelopoulos".
^ Reviewer John M. Miller calls Angelou's performance of her song "All That Happens in the Marketplace" the "most genuine musical moment in the film".
^ In Angelou's third book of essays, Letter to My Daughter (2009), she credits Cuban artist Celia Cruz as one of the greatest influences of her singing career, and later, credits Cruz for the effectiveness and impact of Angelou's poetry performances and readings.
^ Guy Johnson, who as a result of this accident in Accra and one in the late 1960s, underwent a series of spinal surgeries. He, like his mother, became a writer and poet.
^ Angelou called her friendship with Malcolm X "a brother/sister relationship".
^ Angelou did not celebrate her birthday for many years, choosing instead to send flowers to King's widow Coretta Scott King.
^ See Mom & Me & Mom, pp. 168—178, for a description of Angelou's experience in Stockholm.
^ Angelou described their marriage, which she called "made in heaven", in her second book of essays Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997)(1997).
^ Angelou dedicated her 1993 book of essays Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now to Winfrey.
^ In her fifth autobiography All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1987), Angelou recounts being identified, on the basis of her appearance, as part of the Bambara people, a subset of the Mande.
^ See Gillespie et al., pp. 153–175.
^ Angelou describes her brother's addiction to heroin in Mom & Me & Mom, pp. 189—194.
^ In Angelou's essay, "My Grandson, Home at Last", published in Woman's Day in 1986, she describes the kidnapping and her response to it.
^ In Angelou's third book of essays, Letter to My Daughter (2008), she related the first time she used legal pads to write.
^ "Maya Angelou". SwissEduc.com. December 17, 2013.
^ Glover, Terry (December 2009). "Dr. Maya Angelou". Ebony 65 (2): 67.
^ Ferrer, Anne (May 29, 2014). "Angelou's optimism overcame hardships". The Star Phoenix. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
^ a b c Lupton, p. 4
^ Angelou (1969), p. 67
^ Angelou (1969), p. 6
^ Johnson, Claudia (2008). "Introduction". In Johnson, Claudia. Racism in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7377-3905-3.
^ Angelou (1993), pp. 21–24
^ a b c d e Younge, Gary (November 13, 2013). "Maya Angelou: 'I'm fine as wine in the summertime". The Guardian (London). Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Angelou (1969), p. 52
^ Joanne M. Braxton (1999). Maya Angelou's I Know why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook. Oxford University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780195116076.
^ Lupton, p. 5
^ "Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". BBC World Service Book Club. October 2005. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 22.
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 21–22.
^ a b Angelou (1969), p. 13.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 23.
^ a b Lupton, p. 15.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 28.
^ Angelou (1969), p. 279.
^ Long, Richard (November 1, 2005). "35 Who Made a Difference: Maya Angelou". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
^ Lauret, p. 120
^ Gillespie et al., p. 29.
^ Lupton, p. 6.
^ Hagen, p. xvi.
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 29, 31.
^ Powell, Dannye Romine (1994). "Maya Angelou". Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: John F. Blair Publisher. p. 10. ISBN 0-89587-116-5.
^ a b Angelou (1993), p. 95.
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 36–37.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 38.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 41.
^ Hagen, pp. 91–92.
^ a b c Miller, John M. "Calypso Heat Wave". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 48.
^ Angelou (2008), p. 80
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 49–51.
^ a b c d e f g h Als, Hilton (August 5, 2002). "Songbird: Maya Angelou takes another look at herself". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
^ Hagen, p. 103.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 57.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 64.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 59.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 65.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 71.
^ Gillespie, p.156
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 74,75.
^ Braxton, p. 3.
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 79–80.
^ "Maya Angelou Interview". Academy of Achievement. p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
^ Boyd, Herb (August 5, 2010). "Maya Angelou Remembers James Baldwin". New York Amsterdam News 100 (32): 17.
^ Gillespie et al., pp. 85–96.
^ a b Gillespie et al., p. 98.
^ a b c Minzesheimer, Bob (2008-03-26). "Maya Angelou celebrates her 80 years of pain and joy". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
^ Angelou, Maya (February 1982). "Why I Moved Back to the South". Ebony (37). Retrieved December 19, 2013.
^ Smith, Dinitia (January 23, 2007). "A Career in Letters, 50 Years and Counting". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
^ Brown, Avonie (January 4, 1997). "Maya Angelou: The Phenomenal Woman Rises Again". New York Amsterdam News (88): 2.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 105.
^ Angelou, Maya (1997). Even the Stars Look Lonesome. New York: Random House. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-553-37972-3.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 119.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 110.
^ Moore, Lucinda (April 2003). "Growing Up Maya Angelou". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
^ Winfrey, Oprah (December 2000). "Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou". O Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
^ Angelou (1993), p. x.
^ Glover, Terry (December 2009). "Dr. Maya Angelou". Ebony (65): 67.
^ Cohen, Patricia (host) (October 1, 2008). "Book Discussion on Letter to My Daughter". CSPAN Video Library (Documentary). The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 126.
^ a b c Manegold, Catherine S. (January 20, 1993). "An Afternoon with Maya Angelou; A Wordsmith at Her Inaugural Anvil". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Berkman, Meredith (February 26, 1993). "Everybody's All American". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 142.
^ Long, p. 84.
^ a b Gillespie et al., p. 144.
^ a b c d Younge, Gary (May 24, 2002). "No surrender". The Guardian. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ a b Gillepsie et al., p. 9.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 10.
^ Williams, Jeannie (January 10, 2002). "Maya Angelou pens her sentiments for Hallmark". USA Today. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 175.
^ Sayers, Valerie (March 27, 2013). "'Mom & Me & Mom,' by Maya Angelou". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Mooney, Alexander (2008-12-10). "Clinton camp answers Oprah with Angelou". CNN Politics.com. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
^ Williams, Krissah (2008-01-18). "Presidential candidates court S.C. black newspaper". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
^ Zeleny, Jeff; Marjorie Connelly (2008-01-27). "Obama Carries South Carolina by Wide Margin". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
^ Parker, Jennifer (January 19, 2009). "From King's 'I Have a Dream' to Obama Inauguration". ABC News. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Waldron, Clarence (November 11, 2010). "Maya Angelou Donates Private Collection to Schomburg Center in Harlem". Jet Magazine. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Lee, Felicia R (October 26, 2010). "Schomburg Center in Harlem Acquires Maya Angelou Archive". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Tate, p. 150.
^ Angelou, Maya (1984). "Shades and Slashes of Light". In Evans, Mari. Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-385-17124-3.
^ Toppman, p. 145.
^ Gates, Jr., Henry L. (host) (2008). "African American Lives 2: The Past is Another Country (Part 4)". PBS. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Angelou, Maya (1986). All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 206–207. ISBN 978-0-679-73404-8.
^ Gates, Jr., Henry L. (host) (2008). "African American Lives 2: A Way out of No Way (Part 2)". PBS. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Lupton, p. 2.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 156.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 155.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 129.
^ Lupton, p. 19
^ Gillespie et al., p. 150.
^ Gillespie et al., p. 162.
^ Pierce, Donna (January 5, 2005). "Welcome to her world: Poet-author Maya Angelou blends recipes and memories in winning style". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 24, 2013.
^ Crea, Joe (January 18, 2011). "Maya Angelou's cookbook 'Great Food, All Day Long' exudes cozy, decadence". Northeast Ohio Media Group. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Sarler, Carol (1989). "A Day in the Life of Maya Angelou". In Elliot, Jeffrey M. Conversations with Maya Angelou. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-87805-362-9.
^ Angelou (2008), pp. 63—67
^ a b c d "Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". BBC World Service Book Club (interview). BBC. October 2005. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ "Dr. Maya Angelou dead at 86". Winston-Salem, North Carolina: WXII12.com. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
^ Hewlett, Michael (May 28, 2014). "Maya Angelou, famed poet, writer, activist, dead at 86". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
^ a b Alter, Alexander (May 28, 2014). "Author, Poet Maya Angelou Dies". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
^ "Maya Angelou 'the brightest light' says Barack Obama". BBC News. May 28, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
^ Jenkins, Colleen; Trott, Bill (May 28, 2014). "U.S. author, poet Maya Angelou dies at 86". Reuters. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
^ WBTV Web Staff (May 29, 2014). "Dr Maya Angelou remembered at public memorial service". Winston-Salem, NC, U.S.: Worldnow and WDAM TV. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
^ Lupton, p. 98.
^ Lupton, p. 1.
^ Gilmor, Susan (April 7, 2013). "Angelou: Writing about Mom emotional process". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
^ a b c "Maya Angelou". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Italie, Hillel (May 6, 2011). "Robert Loomis, Editor of Styron, Angelou, Retires". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Martin, Arnold (April 12, 2001). "Making Books; Familiarity Breeds Content". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
^ Tate, p. 155.
^ McPherson, Dolly A. (1990). Order Out of Chaos: The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8204-1139-6.
^ a b Moyer, Homer E (2003). The R.A.T. Real-World Aptitude Test: Preparing Yourself for Leaving Home. Herndon, New York: Capital Books. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-931868-42-6.
^ a b c d McWhorter, p. 40.
^ a b c Braxton, p. 4.
^ Long, p. 85.
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Angelou, Maya (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50789-2
Angelou, Maya (1993). Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-22363-6
Angelou, Maya (2008). Letter to My Daughter. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-8129-8003-5
Braxton, Joanne M., ed. (1999). Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook. New York: Oxford Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511606-9
Braxton, Joanne M. "Symbolic Geography and Psychic Landscapes: A Conversation with Maya Angelou", pp. 3–20
Tate, Claudia. "Maya Angelou: An Interview", pp. 149–158
Burr, Zofia. (2002). Of Women, Poetry, and Power: Strategies of Address in Dickinson, Miles, Brooks, Lorde, and Angelou. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02769-7
DeGout, Yasmin Y. (2009). "The Poetry of Maya Angelou: Liberation Ideology and Technique". In Bloom's Modern Critical Views—Maya Angelou, Harold Bloom, ed. New York: Infobase Publishing, pp. 121–132. ISBN 978-1-60413-177-2
Gillespie, Marcia Ann, Rosa Johnson Butler, and Richard A. Long. (2008). Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-385-51108-7
Hagen, Lyman B. (1997). Heart of a Woman, Mind of a Writer, and Soul of a Poet: A Critical Analysis of the Writings of Maya Angelou. Lanham, Maryland: University Press. ISBN 978-0-7618-0621-9
Lauret, Maria (1994). Liberating Literature: Feminist Fiction in America. New York: Routledge Press. ISBN 978-0-415-06515-3
Long, Richard. (2005). "Maya Angelou". Smithsonian 36, (8): pp. 84–85
Lupton, Mary Jane (1998). Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-30325-8
McWhorter, John. (2002). "Saint Maya." The New Republic 226, (19): pp. 35–41.
O'Neale, Sondra. (1984). "Reconstruction of the Composite Self: New Images of Black Women in Maya Angelou's Continuing Autobiography", in Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation, Mari Evans, ed. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-17124-3
Toppman, Lawrence. (1989). "Maya Angelou: The Serene Spirit of a Survivor", in Conversations with Maya Angelou, Jeffrey M. Elliot, ed. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press. ISBN 978-0-87805-362-9
Walker, Pierre A. (October 1995). "Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and Form in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". College Literature 22, (3): pp. 91–108.
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