Literary Birthday: Maya Angelou

Today is my birthday, and I have always been happy to share it with one of my absolute favorite people growing up– Marguerite Annie Johnson… AKA Maya Angelou.


By Clinton Library – William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Public Domain,

Angelou was an amazing writer, poet, actress, dancer– a jack of all trades, really– who published many inspirational pieces that span the generations. Most readers know her for the painfully truthful autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings where she exposes the racism and traumas of her youth and tracks her ascension into a strong young woman capable of taking on the world through her works. Others can quote “I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, /That’s me” or “still I rise” with great fluidity. It is no secret that Maya has given something special to the written world, and I greatly encourage you guys to check her out if you haven’t already.


Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. [via Wikipedia]

Rather than post her popular poems in their entirety, I think you guys should hear them from the legend herself as they were meant to be performed. Enjoy!


I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


4 thoughts on “Literary Birthday: Maya Angelou

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