The Extraordinary Legacy That Poet, Activist Maya Angelou Left Behind

A country mourns after learning that poet Maya Angelou has died in her home at the age of 86. For millions, Dr. Angelou was the voice of the history of segregationist south as the author of the memoir “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” But her life and legacy stretched far beyond poet and author, to activist for civil rights, women’s rights and the soul of our nation.

“Before she hit 40 she had been a professional dancer, prostitute, madam, lecturer, activist, singer and editor,” reported The Guardian in a 2009 interview with Angelou. “She had lived in Ghana and Egypt, toured Europe with a dance troupe and settled in pretty much every region of the United States.” She gave birth as a teen, and broke barriers all throughout her life from being a female street car driver to a member of the Harlem Writers Guild, newspaper editor and eventual Medal of Freedom winner.

She was also a survivor of sexual assault, silent for years as a young child because she was convinced her testimony led to a man’s death. When she began speaking again, she never stopped, producing memoirs, poems, speaking at presidential inaugurations and garnering over 50 doctorates despite never going to college.

Angelou spoke on page, she spoke out loud, and she spoke freely and strongly to any audience. Here are just a few memorable examples:

And Still I Rise

“Does my sassiness upset you?” Angelou recites one of her best known poems, an anthem of pride and confidence that overcomes a historical legacy of racial oppression.

 

On the Pulse of Morning

Recited at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, Angelou’s evocation for a country united and at peace with itself and the world.

 

How She Would Want to Be Remembered

Angelou tells of her childhood sexual assault, the trauma that made her go silent for years, and how she eventually found the courage to speak again.

 

“My Name”

Angelou’s audience wasn’t just adults. Watch her sing on Sesame Street, where she helps children examine and express pride in being themselves.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

71 comments

Anita B.
Anita B.2 years ago

I feel so sad hearing that this great woman has pased away.
My best wishings is send to her Family and friends.
R.I.P Maja Angelue You will be missed a lot.

Margaret Skeel
Margaret Skeel2 years ago

Respect for a powerful woman, an Elder and an inspiration.

Trina Hawkins
Trina Hawkins2 years ago

What a Beautiful Soul! Rest in Heavenly Peace! You have your Wings ,so Fly !♥

Lynn Marie M.
Lynn Marie M.2 years ago

What a beautiful person and one who will be remembered.

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez2 years ago

TYFS

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

She certainly was one of a kind and the wait for another like her, will be long.

Debaprasad Bose
Debaprasad Bose2 years ago

Come back to this earth in some other form.....we need more human beings like you.My pranam to you.

Rehana VN
Rehana VN2 years ago

Great Lady! RIP

Sylvie NoStarPlz
sylvie C2 years ago

Thanks

Marianne R.
Marianne R.2 years ago

Thank you for the article