"All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival; not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated." A poet, playwright, performer, film director, and a singularly brilliant advocate for personal dignity, Maya Angelou re-invented and re-invigorated autobiography, African American literature, feminism, and the Black experience in America with a series of stunning confessional works that began with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The full measure of her contribution to our culture and society has yet to be assayed, but within her life she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as more than 50 honorary degrees.
Angelou's distinctive voice, her tranquil strength, her remarkably buoyant spirit, and even her mischievous sense of humor will all be greatly missed, but we are truly fortunate to have the gifts of her life and experience in her writings.
"I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. 'When you learn, teach. When you get, give' is one of my best lessons from her.
She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds." - Oprah Winfrey