Dr. Maya Angelou is known for inspiring generations through the wisdom of her words and the way she carried herself through life’s ups and downs. Born Marguerite Johnson on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she came from humble beginnings. Growing up in Stamps, Arkansas exposed her to the deep racial prejudices and brutality of the Jim Crow South. Her experiences with racial discrimination and prejudice became part of her literary voice.
The trauma she experienced as a child who was a victim of rape and the trials she overcame as a teenage mother also became part of her story, and she used all of her life experiences to instill a sense of pride in African Americans about their heritage and the legacy their ancestors fought and survived to grant them.
Through telling her story many times over, Dr. Angelou became known as one of the most respected writers of the 20th century with millions of people reading her work. Even with this distinction, one of the most enduring aspects of Dr. Angelou’s legacy is the way she touched the people she came in contact with. The following quote of her’s sums it up best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”
This interview is taken from the Oprah’s Master Class Series. In it, Dr. Angelou discusses how her relationship with her absent mother changed because of some simple words her mother said to her. Dr. Angelou then used those words to change the world by teaching that it always love that liberates and brings true freedom. The interview originally aired in January 2011.