Maya Angelou: A Source of Humanity

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Maya Angelou: A Source of Humanity

"I am human," Angelou said, "and nothing human can be alien to me" (Shafer).

Maya Angelou just may be the most "human" person in the world. Indeed, with all of the struggles she went through in her early life, her humanness increasingly deepened. Her life was characterized by the instability of her childhood and her family, along with the challenge of being a black woman growing up in 19th century America. The deepness of her humanness is evident in all of her writings, from her autobiographies to her poetry. Now a success today, Angelou's major themes are inspired by the dream of overcoming the struggles that were ever-present in her life.

Born April 4, 1928 in Saint Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou's given name was Marguerite Johnson. In her early twenties she was given the name Maya Angelou after her debut performance as a dancer at the Purple Onion cabaret. She has been labeled as a poet, historian, author, actress, dancer, singer, playwright, civil-rights activist, teacher, producer and director (Shafer). Today, she lectures throughout the US and abroad and has been Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981. She has published ten best selling books and numerous magazine articles earning her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. At the request of President Clinton, she wrote and delivered a poem at his 1993 presidential inauguration. Maya Angelou, poet, was among the first African-American women to hit the bestsellers lists with her "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." She has ranged from story to poem to song and back again, and her theme has always been one of love and the universality of all lives. "The honorary duty o...

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..."...You pick yourself, dust yourself off, and prepare to love somebody. I don't mean sentimentality. I mean the condition of the human spirit so profound that it encourages us to build bridges" (Hall)

Works Cited

Burt, Sharon. Voices from the Gaps. "Maya Angelou." 31 Oct. 2001 <http://voices.cla.>

Hall, Joseph, copyright. "A Spotlight on Maya Angelou." 20 April 2000. 31 Oct. 2001. <>

Lupton, Mary Jane. Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Maya Angelou: Poems. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Neubauer, Carol E. Southern Women Writers. Ed. Inge, Tonette Bond. Tuscaloosa:

Univ. of Alabama Press, 1990. 114-142.

Shafer, Nancy Imelda. "Maya Angelou." 31 Oct. 2001 <>.
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