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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Black History Month Profiles: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, who passed away last year on May 28, is remembered for her talents and compassion.

Maya Angelou, who passed away last year on May 28, is remembered for her talents and compassion.

Writer and performer Maya Angelou died last year on May 28 and is remembered for her talents and civil rights activism.

“Here, on the pulse of this new day/You may have the grace to look up and out,” she read from her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. 

In 2010, Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. 

Angelou penned 36 books, among them the acclaimed 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” a coming-of-age story about her experiences with racism, sexual abuse, and the power of words.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, Angelou was raped as an 8-year-old by her mother’s boyfriend, and refused to speak for almost five years after. Through reading poetry aloud she was eased into talking.

She took the name “Maya Angelou” as a teenager and began a career that would span writing, music, dance, and acting.

“Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.”

Both poetry collection “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie” and screenplay “Georgia, Georgia” by Angelou received Pulitzer nominations, the latter being the first script written by an African American woman to be filmed.

Angelou helped form the Organization of African-American Unity with Malcolm X during the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. later asked her to be the Northern Coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

Raising funds for the SCLC, she wrote and starred in the musical revue “Cabaret for Freedom.”

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength,” she is quoted as saying.

Before passing away at age 86, Angelou collaborated on spoken word album “Caged Bird Songs,” released posthumously on Nov. 4, 2014.