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Maya Angelou furthered society for the better

A woman determined to empower others

Speaking out to the nation at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Maya Angelou not only spoke out for herself, but also shared a vision for the entire nation.

Born April 28, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. Angelou earned her nickname as her brother began calling her Maya after he learned about the Mayan Indians.

At the age of eight, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She spoke to her uncle about it, who then beat the boyfriend to death. Because of this, Angelou did not speak at all for five years because she believed her words had killed the man.

In 1964, Angelou started working with civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Both these figures greatly inspired Angelou to pursue equal rights for all people, but sadly, both Malcolm X and King Jr. were assassinated. Their deaths destroyed Angelou’s spirit and she fell into a deep sadness.

With the help of her friend James Baldwin, Angelou turned to writing to deal with her grief. Her first work stands as one of her most well-known: “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” The public loved her book and she instantly became a figure of major importance. She inspired women and African Americans to persevere in hard times.

Angelou’s backstory helped empower women with challenging pasts. Angelou also wrote poems filled with inspirational quotes for her readers, imploring them to rise above the issues they may face and keep going on.

Angelou made history for her efforts as both an African American and a woman. She became the first African American woman with a bestselling nonfiction book. She also wrote the screenplay for the drama “Georgia,” again being the first African American woman to have her own screenplay produced. This inspired both her fellow African Americans and women to strive for greatness.

Poetry became another strong point for Angelou. She wrote several poems, one of which, “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die,” (1971) won her a Pulitzer Prize. Her famous poem “On the Pulse of Morning” won her a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. She was on The New York Times bestselling paperback nonfiction list for an unbroken record of two years.

Angelou possessed a way of sharing ideas yet to be replicated. Her works throughout her life inspired not only women to be successful, but an entire world. Angelou understood how to convey her passions, thus empowering women and African Americans to look to her as a beacon of hope. Angelou not only defied the odds of both race and gender, but rose above to help make a brighter world for everyone, regardless of who they are. Angelou’s insight shaped not only herself as a person, but shined through to others as she spoke out on a cold, January morning at the White House.

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