Maya Angelou

Inspirational women: Maya Angelou

Today I am incredibly excited to talk about a very special person who has had a major influence on my life and outlook, as well as being an activist I truly admire.

Maya Angelou was an exceptional woman with an exceptional mind. She blossomed from a traumatic early childhood to a life lived abundantly with a fierce love of language, which she used to communicate some very important messages for the development of humanity.

Maya Angelou

Now most well-known for her poetry and literary prowess, Maya was also an integral part of the civil rights movement and fight for women’s equality.

Maya’s story

Maya Angelou was born in St Louis in 1928. Her childhood was tough, marked by poverty and abuse, as well as living through the Great Depression and World War 2. After the man who sexually abused her as a child was killed, she became mute for 5 years, fearing the power of her own voice. Eventually she reclaimed it and became one of the most well-known writers and speakers of all time.

Later, she became the first Black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco – before becoming a professional dancer and later a journalist. Maya travelled all over the world, which helped her to develop different perspectives and opened her eyes to the oppression and inequality present in various cultures. On returning to the US, she became involved with the Civil Rights movement, working with great leaders and visionaries including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. She has also campaigned passionately for women’s rights.

What I really love about Maya is her thirst for knowledge and willingness to turn her hand to something new at any age. Her creative career as a songwriter, author, poet and playwright really began after the age of 40, when she began to publish and produce her own materials as well as writing for others. In 1972 she became the first black woman to produce a screenplay with Georgia, Georgia.

Maya was a keen linguist, enjoying language in its many forms. She has published 7 autobiographies, poetry books, she was an actor, writer, director, producer of plays movies and TV shows. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry, she also received 3 Grammys for a spoken word albums and was awarded more than 50 honorary degrees throughout the world. All truly amazing achievements – especially in a time when women (and black women in particular) were rarely celebrated, seen or heard.

Why we love Maya

She is best known as a memoirist, poet and civil rights activist – but Maya Angelou was so much more than that. Her thoughts and observations continue to flourish and inspire following generations.

Maya had an incredibly positive and poised perspective on life and being human. She was compassionate, fair and kind – fiercely committed to highlighting the difficulties those who are oppressed or suffering face. Despite a challenging start in life, her determination and grit enabled her to develop a global platform and become a much-loved activist and creative. She even had a child at 17 and was still able to achieve so much from a very young age and continued to do so throughout her life, even as she approached her nineties.

Sadly Maya passed away in 2014 – but her legacy lives on, and her timeless words and poetry continue to inspire millions worldwide.