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Tina L. Register

Dr. Deena, SSII
African American Literature

Author Project













Maya Angelou is one of those people you wait your entire life to meet, and after you do, you realize just by knowing her, life is worth living. I have not met Dr. Angelou in the flesh, but I have met her through her work, and the love that she shares for humanity.

Facts tell the world that Dr. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson over 70 years ago, but facts can not tell us of the woman she is. Dr. Angelou said: “There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.” One needs only to read parts of her work, or listen to her speak to know that he is in the presence of wisdom. Dr. Angelou embraces life as few have the courage to do, and she tries to impart wisdom upon those who are willing to listen. Hallmark and Dr. Angelou have combined forces to create a Life Mosiac selection of inspirational cards, gifts and wisdom.

Dr. Angelou has a variety of publications currently in print, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now, and Heart of a Woman. She has been honored by numerous universities and currently holds a professorship at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, near her residence in Winston-Salem.

--Tina L. Register



Biography Information
Maya Angelou

BORN: Marguerite Johnson, April 4, 1928, St. Louis, Missouri

EDUCATION: Attended public school in Stamps, Arkansas and San Francisco, California





I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, 1970 - On February 26, 1995, Bantam Books congratulated Maya Angelou for being the first African-American to be the longest-running (2 years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Best-seller list.



THE HEART OF A WOMAN, 1981 - In September 1997, USA Today's "Best-Selling Book", Jumped from #83 to #11 on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Best-seller list.


A SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN,2002- Currently on The New York Times Best-Seller List for Hardcover Nonfiction.





EVEN THE STARS LOOK LONESOME, 1997 - Jumped from #79 to #22 on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Best-seller list.










JUST GIVE ME A COOL DRINK OF WATER 'FORE I DIIIE, 1971 - Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.






ON THE PULSE OF MORNING, Written at the request of William Jefferson Clinton for his Inauguration as the 42nd President of the United States, January 20, 1993. Published by Random House in March, 1993.



A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH, Recited at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, June 26, 1995; Published by Random House in October, 1995.

FROM A BLACK WOMAN TO A BLACK MAN, delivered at the Million Man March in Washington, DC, October 16, 1995.

EXTRAVAGANT SPIRITS, written in May 1997 for Life Magazine's Collector's Edition


CABARET FOR FREEDOM, 1960 - Produced off-Broadway (in collaboration with Godfrey Cambridge).

THE LEAST OF THESE, 1966 - Produced in Los Angeles.


AJAX, 1974 - Produced in Los Angeles (Mark Taper Forum).

AND STILL I RISE, 1976 - Produced in Oakland, California (Oakland Ensemble Theater).

MOON ON A RAINBOW SHAWL, 1988 - Produced in London (Author Errol John).



GEORGIA, GEORGIA, 1972 - Produced by Cinerama, Sweden.
ALL DAY LONG, 1974 - Produced by American Film Institute, Los Angeles.





· Writer for Oprah Winfrey series "Brewster Place."
· PBS Documentaries: "Who Cares About Kids" & "Kindred Spirits" - KERA-TV, Dallas, TX; "Maya Angelou: Rainbow in the Clouds" - WTVS-TV, Detroit, MI "To the Contrary" - Maryland Public Television. Two plays for national viewing;
· Tapestry and Circles; Directed in Hollywood, 1975.
· Author of six national one half-hour programs; interviews and profiles; "Assignment America" premiered January 1975.
· Ten one-hour programs (NET-TV) "Black, Blues, Black"; National Education Television; written, produced and directed, 1968.
· Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation, Contributor, 1963-64.
· "Afro-American in the Arts," PBS Documentary
· "Humanities Through the Arts," 30 half-hour segments.
· "Three Way Choice," CBS Miniseries; Author/Executive Producer.
· Sister, Sisters, NBC; 1982.
· "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," CBS; co-authored; 1979.
· Two programs for the United States Information Agency; written and hosted; Part One: "The Legacy"; Part Two: "The Inheritors," 1976.
· Touched By An Angel "Tree of Life" episode, November, 1995.
· "The Amen Corner" Chris/Rose Productions with Miramax (work-in-progress), 1999.
· "Down in the Delta" weekly television series (work-in-progress), 1999.
· Moesha, WB TV, August 30, 1999

· Runaway, CBS/Hallmark Movie, December 10, 2000.



PORGY AND BESS (George Gershwin) played Ruby in European tour, 1954-55.

CALYPSO, Off-Broadway, 1957.
THE BLACKS (Jean Genet), played White Queen Off-Broadway, 1960. THE BLACKS won the Obie Award in 1961 for the best Broadway play, both American and foreign).
MOTHER COURAGE (Bertold Brecht), played title role Off-Broadway, 1964.
MEDEA (Jean Anouilh), played Nurse in Hollywood.
LOOK AWAY (Jerome Kilty), played Mrs. Keckley, Broadway, 1973.
ROOTS (Alex Haley), played Nyo Boto (Grandmother), Hollywood, 1977. (Received Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress).
HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT, 1995, Universal Pictures.
DOWN IN THE DELTA, 1998, Miramax Films, Directorial Film Debut. Released on Video June 1999.






FOR THE LOVE OF IVY, Sidney Portier film
MISS CALYPSO, 1957, Liberty Records



· WOMEN IN BUSINESS, 1981 - University of Wisconsin.
· BEEN FOUND, Music & Spoken Word Album with Ashford & Simpson, 1996.





Black Scholar, Redbook Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Essence, Ebony Magazine, Cosmopolitan, California Living Magazine, Mademoiselle Magazine, Life Magazine, Ghanaian Times,Chicago Daily News, Sunday New York Times



THE TRUE BELIEVERS, a book of poems in collaboration with Abbey Lincoln.
ALL DAY LONG, a collection of short stories



· Taught modern dance at THE ROME OPERA HOUSE and THE HAMBINA THEATRE in Tel Aviv.
· Was the Northern Coordinator for THE SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE - appointed by the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1959-60.
· Associated Editor of the ARAB OBSERVER, Cairo, Egypt (English language news weekly) 1961-62.
· Assistant Administrator and teacher, School of Music & Drama, UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, 1963-66.
· Feature Editor of AFRICAN REVIEW, Accra, Ghana, 1964-66.
· Contributor of free-lance articles, GHANAIAN TIMES, 1964-66.
· Contributor to RADIO GHANA, 1964-66.
· Writer-in-Residence, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS IN LAWRENCE, 1970.
· Distinguished Visiting Professor - Wake Forest University, 1974.
· Distinguished Visiting Professor - Wichita State University, 1974.
· Distinguished Visiting Professor - California State University of Sacramento, 1974.
· Appointed member of AMERICAN REVOLUTION BICENTENNIAL COUNCIL by President Gerald Ford, 1975-6.
· Appointed the First REYNOLD'S PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES AT WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY, Winston-Salem, N.C., a lifetime appointment since 1981.
· Selected by American Council of the Arts to deliver the NANCY HANKS LECTURE in Washington, D.C. on March 20, 1990.
· Panelist at INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF HUMAN SYSTEMS in Zermatt, Switzerland, June 1990.
· National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, "Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album For PHENOMENAL WOMAN, 1995.
· United States of America, Congressional Record, 104th Congress, House of Representatives, Tribute to Maya Angelou by the Honorable Kweisi Mfume, Maryland Congressman, 1996.
· Wrote Invocation & Benediction for "JESSYE NORMAN SINGS FOR THE HEALING OF AIDS" 1996.
· Microsoft Encarta Africana Encyclopedia, presenter for THE AFRICAN DIASPORA, 1998.
· Board of Governors, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, "Maya Angelou Institute for the Improvement of Child & Family Education" at Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC, 1998.







· Member, The Director's Guild of America.
· Member, Equity.
· Member, AFTRA (American Federation Television Radio Artists).
· Advisory Board, Woman's Prison Association.
· Harlem Writer's Guild.
· Member, The National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year.
· Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
· National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, London, England, named a center for Maya Angelou. NSPCC Maya Angelou C.P.T. and Family Centre opened by Maya Angelou June 20, 1992.
· Ambassador, Unicef International, 1996.
· Member, Doctors without Borders, New York, 1996.
· Member, W.E.B. duBois Foundation, Inc., Amherst, MA.
· Member, Advisory Board, Bennett College, Greensboro, NC.
· Member, Advisory Board, First Commercial Bank, Little Rock, AR.
· Member, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Washington, DC.



* Chubb Fellowship Award - Yale University 1970
* Nominated for the National Book Award for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 1970
* Pulitzer Prize Nomination for Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie 1972
* Honorary Degree - Portland State University 1973
* Tony Award Nomination for her performance in "Look Away" 1973
* Board of Trustees/American Film Institute 1975
* Rockfeller Foundation Scholar in Italy (Scholar-in-residence at the Bellagio Study & Conference Center 1975
* Honorary Degree - Smith College 1975
* Honorary Degree - Mills College 1975
* Honorary Degree - Lawrence University 1976
* Ladies' Home Journal Award ("Woman of the Year in Communication") 1976
* Nominated for an Emmy Award in made-for-television movie "Roots" 1977
* Golden Eagle Award - Documentary for PBS, "Afro-American in the Arts" 1977
* Honorary Degree - Columbia College 1979
* Honorary Degree - Occidental College 1979
* Honorary Degree - Atlanta University 1980
* Honorary Degree - University of Arkansas at Pinebluff 1980
* Honorary Degree - Wheaton College 1981
* First Reynold's Professor - Wake Forest University (lifetime appointment) Since 1981
* Honorary Degree - Kean College of New Jersey 1982
* Honorary Degree - Claremont Graduate School 1982
* Honorary Degree - Spelman College 1983

* Honorary Degree - Boston College 1983

* Ladies' Home Journal "Top 100 Most Influential Women" 1983
* The Matrix Award - Field of Books from Women in Communication, Inc. 1983
* Honorary Degree - Winston-Salem State University 1984
* Honorary Degree - University Brunesis 1984
* Honorary Degree - Howard University 1985
* Honorary Degree - Tufts University 1985
* Honorary Degree - University of Vermont 1985
* Honorary Degree - North Carolina School of the Arts 1986
* The North Carolina Award in Literature (the highest honor the state bestows) 1987

* Honorary Degree - North Carolina School of the Arts 1988

* Honorary Degree - University of Southern California 1989
* American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award 1990
* Recipient of the Langston Hughes Award presented at the City College of New York 1991
* Distinguished Woman of North Carolina 1992
* Essence Woman of the Year 1992
* Horatio Alger Award 1992
* Woman in Film Award 1992
* Honorary Degree - Northeastern University 1982
* Inaugural Poet for President Bill Clinton 1993
* Arkansas Black Hall of Fame 1993
* Honorary Degree - Skidmore College 1993
* Honorary Degree - University of North Carolina at Greensboro 1993

* Honorary Degree - Academy of Southern Arts & Letters 1993

* Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album 1994
* Spingarn Award NAACP 1994
* Honorary Degree - American Film Institute 1994
* Honorary Degree - Bowie State University 1994
* Frank G. Wells Award 1995
* Honorary Degree - University of Durham 1995
* Lifetime Membership, N.A.A.C.P., Honeywell Corporation, Minneapolis, MN 1996
* President's Award, Collegiate of Language Association for Outstanding Achievements, Winston-Salem, NC 1996
* Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles & Martin Luther King King, Jr. Legacy Association National Award 1996
* The New York Black 100, Schomburg Center & The Black New Yorkers 1996
* National Conference of Christians & Jews, Distinguished Merit Citation 1997
* Homecoming Award, Oklahoma Center for Poets & Writers 1997
* W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Expert-in-Residence Program 1997
* North Carolina Woman of the Year Award, N.C. Black Publishers Association 1997
* Presidential & Lecture Series Award, University of North Florida 1997
* Black Caucus of American Library Association, Cultural Keepers Award 1997
* Humanitarian Contribution Award, Boston, MA 1997

* Honorary Degree - Shaw University 1997

* Honorary Degree - Wake Forest University 1997
* Alston/Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award 1998
* Christopher Award, New York, NY 1998
* American Airlines Audience, Gold Plaque Choice Award, Down in the Delta from Chicago International Film Festival 1998
* City Proclamation, Winston-Salem, NC from Mayor Jack Cavanaugh 1998
* Sheila Award, Tubman African American Museum, Macon, GA 1999
* Special Olympics World Games, Speaker, Raleigh, NC 1999
* Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature 1999
* Named one of the top 100 best writers of the 20th century by Writer's Digest 1999
* Honorary Degree - Lafayette College 1999





A Song Flung Up to Heaven, 2002

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970

Gather Together in My Name, 1974

Singin' and Swingin and Getting Merry Like Christmas, 1976

Heart of a Woman, 1981

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, 1986


Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, 1993

Even the Stars Look Lonesome, 1997


Life Doesn't Frighten Me, 1993

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me, 1994

Kofi and His Magic, 1996


Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, 1971

Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, 1975

And Still I Rise, 1978

Shaker, Why Don't You Sing, 1983

Now Sheba Sings The Song, 1987

I Shall Not Be Moved, 1990

On The Pulse Of Morning, 1993

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, 1994

Phenomenal Woman, 1995

A Brave Startling Truth, 1995


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

How To Make An American Quilt

Down In The Delta


Miss Calypso



Special Events:

Spring, 2002

Dr. Maya Angelou and Hallmark Cards, Inc. have collaborated to make a gift selection that offers inspiration, hope and joy.  Now available in select Hallmark stores, the collection features vases, pillows, wind chimes, frames and other charming trinkets.

With compassion and candor, Dr. Angelou's works speak to the heart, encouraging us to love life, to persevere through its challenges and to share our gifts with others.

Spring, 2002

Dr. Maya Angelou has a new book out, A Song Flung Up to Heaven.  It is the sixth installment of her autobiography, which began more than 30 years ago with her best-selling classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  It features more poignant stories from her life, including her work with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The book is currently on The New York Times Best-Seller List for Hardcover Nonfiction.

December 12, 2000

President, First Lady and National Endowment for the Arts honor America's Distinguished Artists


Washington, DC - President William Clinton is pleased to announce the distinguished recipients of the National Medal of Arts for the year 2000. The President and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will present the Medal to ten artists, an arts patron, and a cultural broadcaster during ceremonies in the nation's capital to be held at Constitution Hall on December 20, 2000 at 10:00 am.


The Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, honors individuals and organizations who, in the President's judgment, are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.


National Medal of Arts Recipients for the year 2000:

· Maya Angelou, Poet and Writer 

· Eddy Arnold, Country Singer 

· Mikbail Baryshnikov, Dancer and Director 

· Benny Carter, Jazz Musician 

· Chuck Close, Painter 

· Horton Foote, Playwright and Screenwriter 

· Lewis Manilow, Arts Patron 

· National Public Radio, Cultural Programming Division, 


· Claes Oldenburg, Sculpter 

· Itzhak Perlman, Violinist 

· Harold Prince, Theater Director and Producer 

· Barbra Streisand, Entertainer and Filmmaker 

For more information on the National Endowment for the Arts, contact the Office of Communications at 202-682-5570 or visit the Endowment Web site at

December 10, 2000

Dr. Maya Angelou appears in the Hallmark movie Runaway, December 10, 2000, 9 P.M. est on CBS. The movie stars Dean Cain, Leland L. Jones, Afemo Omilami, Maya Angelou, Pat Hingle, and Debbi Morgan. The movie is directed by Andy Wolk.

Pops, Angelou strike the right note


                   - Taken from the Archives of The Cape Cod Times, August 7, 2000


HYANNIS - Black and white, fat and thin, pretty and plain, gay and straight - these are the people that Maya Angelou considers family.


And last night, with a voice that rivals a cello in its expressive range, Angelou embraced an ever-growing family attending the Pops by the Sea concert on the Village Green.

"I was over the moon," said Angelou about the invitation to be the guest conductor at the annual visit of the Boston Pops Orchestra
to  Cape Cod.


"My family comes to Cape Cod every year," she said. "We are all family and we are all here," she said to a crowd of about 15,000 people who were obviously delighted to find themselves related to one of the world's most extraordinary women.


Angelou, 72, is a poet, teacher, producer, actress, playwright, human rights activist, producer and director. Last night she added conductor to this heady list of accomplishments when she took the baton from Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and led the much-loved orchestra through a rousing rendition of the "Washington Post March."

Even before this, the audience was transfixed by the power of a woman who wields language with the love and discipline that a
 wise mother affords her children. She began with a humorous reminiscence of her grandmother, who grew passionate with song
 during church services. Then, with the poem "Our Grandmother," Angelou summoned the spirits of all who have gone before:
 the Polish immigrant who landed at Ellis Island, the Chinese families who stayed behind while much-loved sons came to build
 America, the Irish who sought to escape the potato famine, and the African who came by slave ship. "We owe our ancestors," she said.


The concert was the 15th annual Pops by the Sea, sponsored by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. Proceeds from the concert benefit arts programs throughout the Cape. Last night's concert was expected to raise $100,000.



Why Maya Angelou and Hallmark?

Hallmark has a long and respected tradition of not just selling products, but of facilitating emotional connections among people. This focus on enhancing and enriching relationships is what makes Hallmark and Maya Angelou ideal partners. Together, Hallmark and Maya Angelou share a message of hope, respect, community, and responsibility through beautifully designed products that truly enhance the relationships and lives of people everywhere.

"I'm delighted that an institution so vast as Hallmark remembers what its mission is," says Maya Angelou of her new partner. "I have found myself inspired, in talking with the Hallmark people, and seeing what they do. They do not forget the human being. That delights my heart. I want to be a part of it, for the human being is the focus of all my work."

Maya Angelou's universal message of hope and inspiration, combined with Hallmark's unique expertise in nurturing relationships, makes for an inspiring new brand, Maya Angelou Life Mosaic, that will serve to uplift, empower, and connect everyone who is touched by its unique spirit.


Maya Angelou: Writing For a Better World

With twenty-two books to her credit, many of them best-sellers, and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations under her belt, Maya Angelou has made a lasting mark on the world of literature.

Life Lessons
Maya Angelou began chronicling her life and life lessons in her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1970. This chronicle of her life up to age sixteen recounts her young awakening as she shuttled between rural, segregated Stamps, Arkansas, where her devout grandmother ran a general store, and St. Louis, Missouri, where her worldly, glamorous mother lived. She was encouraged to share her stories and wisdom after some notable friends, including author James Baldwin, heard her childhood stories. These same stories have gone on to touch, inspire, and encourage people all over the world.

Making Connections
Maya Angelou's work has always been about making connections among all people. In the 1960s, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1961 to 1962, she was associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. From 1962 to 1965 she was feature editor of the African Review in Accra, Ghana. She returned to the U.S. and was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission, and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. During this time, Maya Angelou continued to produce masterpieces, including Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1971.

Universal Inspiration
Maya Angelou's work is continually recognized for its universal message of hope and inspiration. At the request of President Clinton, she wrote and read her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning" for his 1993 inauguration. She recited her poem, "A Brave and Startling Truth" at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations celebration. Her work has been recognized with honorary degrees from dozens of top universities.

Hearts and Minds
The truest tribute to Maya Angelou's work is in the hearts of people the world over who have found in her words comfort, inspiration, wisdom, guidance, and truth. Her message stands as a beacon of hope and courage for everyone.


“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”

“Your life is much more important than you think. It is your first treasure.”

“Life is your adventure.”

“No one comes from the earth like grass. We come like trees. We all have roots.”

“I would have my ears filled with the world's music.

Let me hear all sounds of life and living.”


Interview with Oprah Winfrey


Excerpt “When I Think of Myself”


Excerpt “On the Pulse of the Morning)


"I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"

P free bird leaps

on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

"The Lesson"

I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live.
"Phenomenal Woman"

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand

Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

An Interview with Maya Angelou
by David Frost


David Frost: And one of your teachers, one of your religious teachers, said -- made you say, "God loves me, God loves me, God loves me," again and again, and then said, "Now try to know it."

Maya Angelou: Yes, yes.

DF: What was the liberating effect of knowing it?

MA: David Frost.

DF: Maya Angelou.

MA: As the cockney say, "I come all over queer." Really. The idea that it, this creation, creator, it, love me, me -- not me generically, but me, Maya Angelou -- is almost more -- it is more than I can comprehend. It fills me. It enters and makes me go inflate like a balloon. Really. The most amazing thing. I can't know it too frequently. I can't know it completely. My heart might burst. My veins might boil up, and my blood might boil up in my veins. My eyes would pop out. My navel would thump. My feet would grow about six inches on either side. Really it has a physiological impact on me. And I can't -- again, it's something I can't explain. It's probably what people mean when they say, "I got saved last week or last year." I suppose that's what they mean. But that knowledge comes to me fresh each time, as if I never knew it before.

DF: In your poem to the U.N., you said, "We, this people, on a small and lonely plant traveling through casual space, passed a lot of stars, across a way of indifferent suns to a destination where all signs tell us it is possible and imperative that we discover a brave and startling truth."

MA: Yes.

DF: What -- can you see the shape of that brave and startling truth?

MA: Yes. I think we have to start to love life. Again, I didn't think about that 'til this moment, but Thomas Wolfe said in A Web and a Rock, "And in loving life, hate death." We have got to start loving life and the living. We have to respect that thing which we cannot create, which is life and stop taking it from people and stop taking it from things. Stop taking it. We can't make it. We can't reproduce one single person. Stop minimizing people's lives by our ignorance, at our whim, for our own personal convenience. You see, I can minimize your life. I can keep you from getting that job. I can keep you from having respect for yourself. I can keep you from being able to support your children. I can keep you from that. I can minimize your life. Yes, I can. So I can live fuller.

Well, we've got to get beyond that. And it is passed aloof stars. I mean, we are living on this mote of matter. That's exactly what it is. And we live about that long. (Snaps fingers.) I mean, to realize that the reptiles were on this little blob of spit and sand for 200 million years and here we are (snaps fingers) moths of time. And so -- and even so in this little brief interlude, we can pinch out somebody's life. We have to force ourselves to be more intelligent. I don't mean intellectually agile either, but really intelligent.

DF: Where did Caged Bird come from, that title?

MA: It came from a poem written by Sir Lawrence Dunbar, a black male poet writing in the 1800s.

DF: Do you remember that?

MA: Yes. It's called Sympathy -- the poem.

I know what the caged bird feels.

Ah me, when the sun is bright on the upland slopes,
when the wind blows soft through the springing grass
and the river floats like a sheet of glass,
when the first bird sings and the first bud ops,
and the faint perfume from its chalice steals.
I know what the caged bird feels
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
till its blood is red on the cruel bars,
for he must fly back to his perch and cling
when he fain would be on the bow aswing.
And the blood still throbs in the old, old scars
and they pulse again with a keener sting.
I know why he beats his wing.
I know why the caged bird sings.
Ah, me, when its wings are bruised and is bosom sore.
It beats its bars and would be free.
It's not a carol of joy or glee,
but a prayer that it send from its heart's deep core,
but a plea that upward to heaven it flings.
I know why the caged bird sings.

DF: That is a fantastic poem. Fantastic poem. And, I mean, you've escaped from a cage a few times in your life. You've had crises in your life. And people have said, "How did she escape from this and how did she escape from that and go on to the life she's had?" and so on. And you said on one occasion, "How the hell do you know I did escape? You don't know what demons I still wrestle with." Is that right?

MA: Of course. Of course. I mean, probably the only true escape is death, but even that is that undiscovered country from whose bond, you know, no traveler returns. So -- but, no, there's no --

DF: There's a few demons still?

MA: There are still. I mean, if you have -- it's almost impossible to grow up. Most people just get older, and they find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, choose personal preferences in drink, have the nerve to get married and have children, and they call that growing up. That's not. That's getting older. Growing up is so painful if you happen to be white in a white country or rich in a country where money is adored and worshipped. But still, it's very hard. Growing up is admitting that there are demons you cannot overcome. You wrestle with the, oh, yes, like the prophet with the angel, you know: "I will not let you go until you tell me something." But sometimes that's what causes the tired person to become an insomniac, because the demons are so thick around the head.

DF: And that's where God is needed, too, you would say.

MA: Yes, I would say.

DF: And the greatest of all the virtues in this life, you said once --

MA: Is courage. Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

DF: And the greatest of the three, or whatever it is that the Bible said, is courage?

MA: Well, I say so. The Bible says it's charity or it's love, yes.

DF: Love. Well, you would also say love in a different context.

MA: Yes, that's right.

DF: Well, it's been a joy having this conversation. I've really loved it. If they decide to have a race commission it this country, would you like to run it?

MA: Oh, God, I'd like to write a poem about it. (Laughs.)

DF: (Laughs.) Than you so much.

MA: Than you very much, David Frost.


Maya Angelou: A Bibliography of Literary Criticism

By Jay Brandes

Alden, Daisy. In a review of "The Heart of a Woman." World Literature

Today 46.4 (1982): 697.

Angelou, Maya and Neubaeur, Carol E. Interview in The Massachusetts Review

28.2 (1987): 286-92.

Bailey, Hilary. "Growing Up Black" Guardian Weekly 130.6 (1984): 21.

Bailey, Paul. "Black Ordeal" The Observer April 1, 1984: 22.

Blundell, Janet Boyarin. In a review of &nbsc; "Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?."

Library Journal 108.7(1983): 746,748.

Blundell, Janet Boyarin. In a review of "The Heart of a Woman."

Publishers Weekly 106.17(1981): 1919.

Casey, Ellen Miller. in a review "The Heart of a Women." Best Sellers

January, 1982: 376-77.

Cosgrave, Mary Silva. In a review of "Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?."

The Horn Book Magazine 59.3 (1983): 336.

Freeman, Sharron. In a review of "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes."

in Voice of Youth Advocates 9.3/4 (1986): 170-71.

Gaines-Carter, Patrice. "Home is Where the Heart is." in Book World -

The Washington Post May 11, 1986: 11-12.

Gargan, Carol. In a review of "And I Still Rise." Best Sellers 38.12 (1979): 404.

Review of "And I Still Rise." Publisher's Weekly 214.5 (1978): 87.

Lewis, David Levering. "Maya Angelou: From Harlem to the Heart of a Woman."

in Book World - The Washington Post October 4, 1991: 1-2.

MacKethan, Lucinda H. "Mother Wit: Humor in Afro-American Women's Autobiography."

Studies in American Humor 4.1/2 (1985): 51-61.

Maddocks, Fiona. In a review of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

New Statesman 107.2758 (1984): 26.

McDowell, Deborah E. "Traveling Hopefully" The Women's Review of Books

4.1 (1986): 17.

Moore, Leonard D. Review of "I Shall Not Be Moved." In Library Journal

115.10 (1990): 132.

Nebauer, Carol E. "Displacement and Autobiographical Style in Maya Angelou's

'The Heart of a Woman'." Black American Literature Forum 17.3

(1983): 123-29.

Miller, David Adam. In a review of "The Heart of a Woman." The Black

Scholar 13.4/5 (1982): 48-49.

Ott, Bill. In a review of "The Heart of a Woman" Booklist 78.1 (1981): 1.

Silva, Candelaria. In a review of "Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?."

School Library Journal 30.1 (1983): 143.

Smith, Sidion Ann. "The Song of a Caged Bird: Maya Angelou's Quest

after Self-acceptance." The Southern Humanities Review Fall 1973:

Stepto, R.B. "The Phenomenal Woman and the Severed Daughter."

Parnassus: Poetry in Review 8.1 (1979): 312-20.


The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.
Hope has conspired with the wind and blown away the demons of despair.
I long, as ever human being does, to be at home wherever I find myself.
Loneliness can be so real it can feel like sand in the palm of your hand.
I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.
The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach for hearts is wise.
You cannot use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.
Have the courage to trust Love one more time. And always one more time.
Love recognizes no barriers.

It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

I made the decision to quit show business. Give up the skintight dresses and manicured smiles. The false concern over sentimental lyrics. I would never again work to make people smile inanely and would take on the responsibility of making them think.

I try to live what I consider a "poetic existence." That means I take responsibility for the air I breathe and the space I take up. I try to be immediate, to be totally present for all my work.

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.

Talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it.

The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.

The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.

The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished and pruned

pricks more deeply and draws more blood.

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.

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