Maya Angelou--And Still I Rise

Maya Angelou, through her powerful writings, has inspired generations of women, African-Americans and all people who struggle to overcome prejudice, discrimination and abuse.

Throughout her life, Angelou has defied social norms. After being raped by her mother's boyfriend, she withdrew and was mute for five years. However, encouraged by her grandmother, who introduced her to literature, she gradually emerged as a talented artist. Her diverse career includes being the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. In 1954, Angelou turned to acting before she started writing while also working as northern coordinator and fund raiser for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the 1960s, Angelou began to focus on her writing and, in 1970, her first autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, became a best seller and was nominated for a National Book Award.

Angelou's writings have altered society for the better, bringing greater diversity into the theater and literature. Her autobiographical works provide powerful insights into the evolution of black women in the 20th century. In 1971, she became the first black woman to have a screenplay produced as a film -- Georgia, Georgia. Her writings have brought her numerous awards and have been nominated for a Tony Award, an Emmy Award and a Pulitzer Prize.


Working with the Words of Maya Angelou

Two selections are included in this part of Words and Violence.  The first is the poem by Maya Angelou, "And Still I Rise."  In the poem, Maya Angelou challenges the listener to deal with the words and thus, the images and myths that popular culture places on Black women.  Read the poem in its entirety, and listen to Maya Angelou's reading of it at on another Voices page:

The second selection is Maya Angelou addressing comments made by Don Imus, a popular morning TV host.  Imus' statement appears first, followed by Angelou's thoughts regarding his choice of words and the underpinning of their meaning.



Power of Words

On the April 4, 2007 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team, which is comprised of eight African-American and two white players, as "nappy-headed hos" immediately after the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, called the team "hard-core hos."  In the video clip above Maya Angelou speaks on the comments made by Don Imus.

Too Many Words

Maya Angelou indicated that the poem she wrote for the Clinton presidential inauguration was good, but not great.  Had she more time to edit her words - to cut them down - it could have been a great poem.  How important is brevity when speaking and writing?  Is it the words spoken by an individual that affect you, or is it the person who speaks the words that affects you?

Inagugural poem:


Links to other Voices pages on Maya Angelou:

Poetry by Women about Women: