Maya Angelou – America’s Soulful Storyteller
Maya Angelou was a dynamic, resilient, trailblazer who forever altered the course of American history. Throughout her life, Angelou occupied many different roles. To name just a few, she was an activist, author, and advisor.
Angelou utilized a variety of storytelling mediums, ranging from poetry performances to personal narratives. Through her work, she explored themes of economic, sexual, and racial oppression. Angelou worked closely with civil rights revolutionaries like Malcom X and Martin Luther King. On the other hand, she could also collaborate masterfully with Hollywood producers and top politicians.
Angelou’s accolades are so extensive it is hard to imagine accomplishing so much in one lifetime. She was the first in many roles and also honored extensively throughout her life. According to The Poetry Foundation she was the first black female Hollywood director. Prior to that she was the first African American and first woman to conduct street cars in San Francisco. In 1972, Angelou made history as the first Black Woman to have her screenplay produced.
Her most famous novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was the first nonfiction bestseller penned by a Black woman. Translated into 17 languages and never out of print, it sold over a million copies. Imagining the initial global impact and butterfly effect of that book alone is impossible. Throughout her 50 year career, Angelou ultimately published 36 books.
Angelou’s honors spanned across the academic, artistic, and political spectrums. She was chosen to give Bill Clinton’s inaugural address when he took office. Prior to this speech, Angelou served on two different presidential committees. She was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Angelou won multiple Grammys for her poetry readings and secured countless literary awards. Academically, she was similarly recognized for her brilliance. All in all, Angelou accumulated over 50 honorary degrees before her death.
Most importantly, Angelou inspired those around her to live a life of authenticity and to tell their truths. Even after her death, her works live on to influence future generations of storytellers and history makers.
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