Maya Angelou is one of the most prolific voices of our time, and her contributions as a poet, educator, singer, historian, and activist. Dr. Angelou recently passed away at the age of 86. Her impact on people can be summed up in her quote: “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.” Dr. Angelou had a unique way of stirring the emotion of all human beings.
During her lifetime, Dr. Angelou published seven autobiographies, the first of which was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The book won her international acclaim and solidified her place as a writer who eloquently spoke about black people, black culture, and black womanhood. In addition to her autobiographies, Dr. Angelou also penned poetry and plays. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diie, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She was chosen by former President Bill Clinton to recite her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” at his 1993 inauguration. The poem went on to sell more than a million copies in the US.
Angelou was awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and won three Grammys for her spoken word albums. She also received the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Angelou will be remembered as a prolific author, poet, and leader who has given generations of black people the courage and voice to speak about their blackness, prompted a nation to consider the privilege of whiteness, and provided the inspiration for us all to poignantly tell our stories without shame.
The following video is of an appearance Dr. Angelou made on the Merv Griffin Show in the early 1980s just after her release of her autobiography The Heart of a Woman. Check out the video below to hear her discuss her issues with President Reagan’s policies regarding unemployment and disenfranchised groups: