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One of the biggest literary voices in history, Maya Angelou is an African-American storyteller, poet, essayist, and civil rights activist. While Angelou is most known worldwide for her autobiographies and essays, she was also successful in writing poetry and screenplays for both film and television.

She did some acting on the side, too. She is now known as the icon of African-American culture, women, and equality of human rights.


Early Days and Family Life

She was born in St. Louis, Missouri in April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Ann Johnson. In 1994, at the early age of 16, she was in a relationship with someone from her high school and got pregnant. She soon gave birth to a boy she named Clyde.

Maya Angelou Quotes

Clyde later changed his name to Guy Johnson who, eventually, also became a writer. In 1952, she married a Greek sailor named Anastasios Angelopulos. Angelou was also in a relationship with Vusumi Make, a South African freedom fighter who lived in Cairo. Her last marriage was with a writer and carpenter named Paul du Feu who lived in northern California.

Angelou had a lot of different jobs growing up. She danced and cooked at diners for a living. She was the first African-American female to be a streetcar conductor, after a series of failed job interviews. On her dark days, as she recalled on her past interviews, she also worked as a dancer at brothels, a prostitute, and a head madam for other prostitutes.

She said she did everything she could so she could provide for herself and her son. As she began to move forward, she began to have office-based jobs. She was an editor, an office assistant, and finally, an actress. She was most popular for her appearance in “Roots”, a mini television series in 1977. She also became a professor at the Wake Forest University.


Silence Behind One of the World’s Most Powerful Voices

Angelou stopped speaking for five years at one point. She was 8 years old then, when she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. He was convicted and sentenced after Angelou testified against him in court, but was later released from jail.

Only a few days after being freed, the man died and was believed to be killed by her uncle. Angelou thought that her words had “killed” him and so she stopped speaking since then. She was thirteen when she began to speak again. She included this sad memory in her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings“.

Among her biggest influences and inspirations were Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Langston Hughes, and William Shakespeare. She made use of her tragic experiences as a young adult to appeal and speak to her audience, especially to young women, at a level where they could all empathize together as author and reader.


First of Firsts

Angelou’s most famous autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is the first best-seller by an African-American woman in the nonfiction category. It was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her book shed light on sexual exploitation and finding one’s identity as a woman in a world full of male-dominated practices.

She made history yet again when she recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Red Morning”, back in 1993 for former President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ceremony. Incidentally, she won a Grammy Award for the category of Best Spoken Word Album for the same piece.

She also received a prestigious award from the government of the United States of America, the “National Medal of Arts”, which is the highest honor to ever be received by any artist. One of her screenplays was produced in the film “Georgia, Georgia“, and was the first African-American in history to achieve such a feat.


Living Legacy

Maya Angelou Quotes

Angelou was considered to be the icon of African-American women. During her time, she was criticized by many for “telling her own story”. After some time, she was later admired for her courage and her influence on the world over African-American culture and equality of rights.

It was when she came to San Francisco with her brother and mother after finally speaking again that her political views and beliefs began to take shape and became a big part of who she was as a voice of human rights and equality.

She was moved by Martin Luther King, Jr. after hearing him speak at a local church. She had the chance to work with him and they exchanged views on civil rights. She was known as the voice of black feminists and became an inspiration to many artists, politicians, scholars, and other individuals.

Angelou died at the age of 86 with at least eleven award-winning books, several plays, more than fifty awards and achievements, and more than 20 honorary degrees from prestigious universities.

Maya Angelou Quotes

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” – Maya Angelou

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” – Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.” – Maya Angelou

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” – Maya Angelou

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” – Maya Angelou

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.” – Maya Angelou

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” – Maya Angelou

“We are only as blind as we want to be.” – Maya Angelou

“I got my own back.” – Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

“I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.” – Maya Angelou

“Determine to live life with flair and laughter.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” – Maya Angelou

“I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.” – Maya Angelou

“Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” – Maya Angelou

“Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.” – Maya Angelou

“The children to whom we read simple stories may or may not show gratitude, but each boon we give strengthens the pillars of the world.” – Maya Angelou

“When you know you are of worth, you don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to become rude, you don’t have to become vulgar; you just are. And you are like the sky is, as the air is, the same way water is wet. It doesn’t have to protest.” – Maya Angelou

“My work is to be honest. My work is to try to think clearly, then have the courage to make sure that what I say is the truth.” – Maya Angelou

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” – Maya Angelou

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” – Maya Angelou

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” – Maya Angelou

“Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, ‘I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway’.” – Maya Angelou

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” – Maya Angelou

“I never have written every day. When I’m writing a book, I write Monday through Friday. I always try to take Saturday and pretend to have some sanity.” – Maya Angelou

“My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.” – Maya Angelou

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” – Maya Angelou

“We are not just flesh and blood. And our hungers are not going to be set aside as just flesh and blood.” – Maya Angelou

“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” – Maya Angelou

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” – Maya Angelou

“Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish, it is an imponderably valuable gift.” – Maya Angelou

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” – Maya Angelou

“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.” – Maya Angelou

“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

“I like to go back and read poems that I wrote fifty years ago, twenty years ago, and sometimes they surprise me – I didn’t know I knew that then. Or maybe I didn’t know it then, and I know more now.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that forgiving is one of the greatest gifts that I can give myself.” – Maya Angelou

“A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.” – Maya Angelou

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.” – Maya Angelou

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

“Your belief and your work will speak for you.” – Maya Angelou

“Life loves the liver of it.” – Maya Angelou

“Determine to live life with flair and laughter.” – Maya Angelou

“Effective action is always unjust.” – Maya Angelou

“We need much less than we think we need.” – Maya Angelou

“The honorary duty of a human being is to love.” – Maya Angelou

Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos for Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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