Maya Angelou portrait

Celebrating Black History Month Recommended: Dr Maya Angelou

Anne Galliot School Administration Manager School of Media would like to mention Maya Angelou.

Front photo: Stephen Parker / Alamy Stock Photo

American poet, memoirist and civil rights activist Angelou (1928-2016) became a poet and writer after a string of odd jobs during her young adulthood. Age 16 she became San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor.  Other jobs included fry cook, sex worker, nightclub performer, Porgy and Bess cast member, Southern Christian Leadership Conference coordinator, and correspondent in Egypt and Ghana during thedecolonization of Africa.


She was also a dancer, actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made approximately 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. Angelou did everything, and new everyone, from King, X and James Baldwin, to Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham, to Ophra and Tupac, to Clinton and Obama.


Angelou had a more than challenging life. She was carted between her divorced parents in San Francisco and grandmother’s in Arkansas during her childhood. Her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused and raped her when she was 8; following his murder, probably at the hand of her uncles, she became mute for five years. She had her son at 17; he nearly died in a car accident in 1962.


Through it all, Maya Angelou advocated kindness. She came across as full of wisdom, love and humour.  ‘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.’


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