Maya Angelou- The Caged Bird Who Sang
“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”Maya Angelou
To say that African-American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s life is a legacy is an understatement. What would be more appropriate to say is that she lived many lives, each of them a legacy- as an author, historian, chef, songwriter, playwright, dancer, producer, director, performer, singer. She lived a remarkable life — and was not afraid to use it in her work. Her experiences became the rich soil of her poetry. Although Maya Angelou is no longer with us today, her legacy lives on through her artistic accomplishments and life achievements. This blog, commemorating her accomplishments, is a tribute to her legacy.
Recently, the United States Mint announced that it has begun releasing a new quarter commemorating Maya Angelou. Historically, the quarter has been featuring George Washington, the first American president, on one side and an eagle on the other. Angelou will be the first individual to be commemorated under the American Women Quarters Program, which was enacted in January 2021.
Angelou is truly a caged bird who sang- the story of her life is a testament to this fact. She endured tremendous suffering throughout her life- a traumatic childhood, poverty, prejudice, and discrimination. She grew up during segregation and used her work to empower and give voice to the African American community. Regardless of the challenges she faced, she triumphed with grace, beauty, wit, and wisdom.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Angelou worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to fight for African-American equality. As a woman, she was known for being strong, resilient, and inspirational. Angelou was the first poet to speak at a presidential inauguration since John F. Kennedy’s in 1961 when she performed her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in the early 1990s.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her biography, altered the literary world and opened doors for African American women and authors. The poignant story made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. After the release of her breakthrough autobiography, Angelou rose to international prominence as an author. By critiquing, modifying, and expanding the autobiographical genre, Angelou made a conscious effort in her novels to question the genre’s conventional framework. More than 30 successful volumes are among Angelou’s published verse, nonfiction, and fiction works. Angelou is best known for her seven autobiographies, but she was also a prolific and successful poet. She is popularly remembered as “the black woman’s poet laureate”, and her poems have been called the anthems of African Americans.
It could be said that this phenomenal woman lived several lives within her own, but the simple truth is that she never confined herself to the limitations imposed by society. Maya Angelou died in 2014, leaving behind a legacy of admiration. Her work is a compilation of timeless writing that is both thought-provoking and insightful and will be passed down through the centuries. Her writings are a testament to her everlasting character strength. Her words live on, giving a voice to the innumerable individuals who have suffered quietly before us, their pain neglected or overlooked. Her legacy weaves a future of hope and love for all those who have endured through a past of anguish and suffering.
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