“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In a life rich with experiences and stories, author, poet, memoirist, and activist Dr. Maya Angelou touched the lives of millions around the globe through her teachings, her writings, her voice, and her actions.
Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928, her incredible story began with tragedy when a sexual assault at the age of seven rendered her mute for five years. During those years, however, books and poetry became her solace and constant companions, eventually helping her find her voice again to embark upon an intellectual and creative journey that defies description.
In her her teens and early adult life Dr. Angelou saw more experiences than many do in a lifetime: from motherhood, to becoming San Francisco’s first female and black streetcar conductor, to touring the world as a cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess — all while mastering several languages. She sang and danced in professional cabarets, worked as a journalist in Africa, and became one of the most prominent civil rights activists of her generation.
The success of her first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in 1969 brought her mainstream attention as an author. Six other autobiographical works followed, in addition to poetry, children’s literature, and non-fiction (even cookbooks!).
Through her works, Dr. Angelou gave a voice to millions. She championed women’s rights and gender equality. She redefined black beauty and celebrated African-American oral traditions. She advocated against war and campaigned for universal peace.
She was also the recipient of numerous honors during her lifetime. She became the first poet to make an inaugural recitation in three decades when Bill Clinton became President in 1992. Her vast impact on popular culture was also felt through a host of award nominations, public accolades, and more than 50 honorary degrees.