Acclaimed author and poet Maya Angelou died this morning at age 86.
Not many people have inspired as many lives as Maya Angelou has.
Did you know that at 16, Maya Angelou was the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco and also the first woman conductor? By the time she was 40, she had been a cook, a waitress, a madam, a prostitute, a dancer, an actress, a playwright, an editor at an English-language newspaper in Egypt, and a Calypso singer?
It was only when she was 41 that she became an author and wrote her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she told the story of her life up to the age of 17.
Maya Angelou’s beginnings were far from easy. Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she was raped when she was 7 by her mother’s boyfriend and testified against him in court. Traumatized, she wouldn’t speak in public until she was 12. This was the time the written word kept her company. Although she got her voice back, life didn’t get better. At 17, she became a mother and moved cities, jobs and husbands. Angelou was one of her husbands and Maya was her brother’s nickname for her.
At 40, her friends persuaded her to use her gift with words to write about her life. And she did.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a heart-rending account of black life in the South during the Depression, of Maya’s sexual abuse. Her extraordinary voice transforms the painful suffering recounted in the book into an exemplary example of human endurance. She describes herself in her book as “a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” And she says, “All my work, my life, everything is about survival. All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.’ In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.”
Angelou has several award-winning books to her credit. She also wrote children’s books and essays and the lyrics to a musical. Her energy is infectious and she was always busy, relentlessly creative.
Maya Angelou has been honored with more than 50 awards, including the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her collected works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, most notably her groundbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made history as one of the first nonfiction best-sellers by an African-American woman.
To quote her,
“What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love. By love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”
Here is a slideshow of some of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes.
Here’s her last tweet:
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.
— Maya Angelou (@DrMayaAngelou) May 23, 2014
And one of my all-time favorite quotes
“I care, and I dare”
I am listing some more of Maya Angelou’s quotes for you to enjoy! I can never get enough of them!
1. “When you know better, you do better.”
2. “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
3. “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.”
4. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
5. “I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t justhold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.'”
6. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
7. “Modesty is a learned affectation. It’s no good. Humility is great, because humility says, ‘There was someone before me. I’m following in somebody’s footsteps.'”
8. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
9. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
10. “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.'”
11. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
12. “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
13. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
14. “Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’ Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I deserve it.'”
15. “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.”
Which is your favorite Maya Angelou quote? ♥