Dr. Maya Angelou was 86 years old when she passed away this week, but even after eight long decades of life she remained a sharp, passionate woman wise beyond her years. While some devoured her books or found inspiration in her poetry (Angelou was the first female African American poet laureate), she was much more than one of world’s greatest writers. Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, a speaker, a philosopher and a mother. She changed the lives of many people with her unique ability to describe the dark complexity and intersectionalities of discrimination, racism, sexism and economic hardship. Here are some of Dr. Maya Angelou’s most famous and inspiring thoughts and speeches.
In 1993, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. She was the second poet in history to have spoken at the ceremonial event, following Robert Frost’s recitation at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Check out the moving performance here:
In 2012, Dr. Maya Angelou gave the keynote address and recited a poem at the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference in Cincinnati. On that day, she performed her poem “I’m a Rainbow in Somebody’s Cloud,” a touching look at the lives of children from all walks of life. After listening to the poem, more than three thousand conference attendees rose and gave the talented poet a true standing ovation. Listen to the poem in full, here:
Later in 2012, Maya Angelou graced the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts with her presence in support of Agape Child & Family Services. She opened the talk with a short, soulful song, and then went on to discuss the ups and downs of her childhood. Angelou was born in 1928. As a child, she experienced extreme racial discrimination and other hardships that would eventually shape her work as a poet and activist. Hear the story from her own words here:
As a passionate and highly vocal civil rights leader, it’s no surprise that Maya Angelou was acquainted with Martin Luther King Jr. and his family. The bond between Angelou and Martin’s wife, Coretta Scott King, spanned decades, prompting the women to call themselves “chosen sisters” over time. In 2006, Angelou gave a moving speech at Coretta’s funeral, detailing the many traits that made the woman both a leader and a dear friend.
In all things, Dr. Angelou advocated perseverance and positivity, despite the dark days and horrific experiences she endured. Her willingness to fight on is most evident in her poem “Still I Rise,” which has been an anthem on courage and womanhood for the masses. Spoken in her deep, soulful voice, this poem is sure to give you chills: