Maya Angelou was a prominent American figure widely known for her literary accomplishments. Her outstanding success makes her our next Woman to Admire.
There’s a magic to Maya Angelou that very few other people on this Earth have possessed. Many recognize Angelou as the astounding writer of many poems and stories. But there’s much more to her than others may know, making her our final selection of Women to Admire for Women’s History Month.
Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, grew up as a young girl living in Stamps, Arkansas, after leaving St. Louis, Missouri. Those locations make up the setting of her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published as an autobiography in 1969. There, Angelou experienced the hardships of the Jim Crow South. She also survived a traumatic sexual abuse experience that rendered her mute for five years.
But despite all that, Maya persevered. She moved to San Fransisco to be with her mother, and eventually began a singing career. At the peak of her early performing career, she toured in a production of Porgy and Bess and recorded her first album, Miss Calypso.
The work Angelou did allowed her to be a citizen of the world. The production of Porgy and Bess toured throughout Europe. She then lived in Cairo, Eygpt, while editing an English-language newspaper. Later, Angelou became an administrator at the University of Ghana.
She accomplished all this, I remind you, during a time when black Americans still fought for their equal rights — making it astounding that Angelou was able to accomplish so much during the difficult years of the ’50s and ’60s.
Alongside that, Angelou stood with Malcolm X before his assassination. She was even called upon by Martin Luther King Jr. to organize a march in the late ’60s.
After those years, Angelou began the work that most people may know her for today. She wrote her autobiography, published numerous poems and won countless distinctions. One of the prominent awards for Angelou was receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Between that, there were acting roles, directing stints and other gigs that proved Angelou lived her life to the fullest. Although it has been almost four years since her passing, it’s clear to see that her legacy will not be forgotten.
For those who celebrate literature, black history, music, dance, activism (and the list goes on and on), Angelou has left her mark on the world as someone to learn from for years to come.
PBS produced a documentary in 2017 detailing Angelou’s life called Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise that you can watch here. I highly recommend it, as it shares much more about Angelou from the people who knew her best.
For Women’s History Month, Culturess has chosen a different woman to admire each day. We’ll end this part of it with a quote by Maya Angelou that is fitting for this month and truly, every day of the year: “I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.”