Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
When I was young, I used to
Watch behind the curtains
As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men.
Young men sharp as mustard.
I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
There are some nights when
sleep plays coy,
aloof and disdainful.
And all the wiles
The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.
They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.
Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips
Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Your hands easy
weight, teasing the bees
hived in my hair, your smile at the
slope of my cheek. On the
When you come to me, unbidden,
To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.
Some clichty folks
don't know the facts,
posin' and preenin'
and puttin' on acts,
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri and spent much of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas. She experienced trauma early in life when she was raped at the age of 7 by her mother's boyfriend, who was subsequently killed by her uncles. Angelou was so traumatized by the incident that she became mute for several years, using writing as a form of self-expression. Angelou eventually moved to San Francisco, California, where she began performing in the arts scene and joined the civil rights movement. She worked with both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and her activism inspired much of her later writing. Angelou's first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969 and became a best-seller. The book is a coming-of-age story that explores Angelou's childhood experiences and the racism and sexism she faced throughout her life. It is widely regarded as a classic of African-American literature. Over the course of her career, Angelou published several more memoirs, as well as poetry collections and essays. Her writing often addressed issues of race, identity, and social injustice, and her powerful and inspiring words resonated with readers around the world. In addition to her writing, Angelou was also a talented singer and actress. She appeared in several films and television shows, and she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the play Look Away. Angelou was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. She died in 2014 at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most important voices of her generation.
When she was not yet eight years old, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend and spoke about it, then he was murdered. The series of traumatic events left her almost completely speechless for several years. These issues were the focus of his first autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was critically acclaimed and nominated for a National Book Award. She is well-known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. This book brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. In 1961 she was persuaded by a South African dissident to whom she was briefly married to move to Cairo, where she worked for the Arab Observer. She later moved to Ghana and worked on The African Review.
She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie. Angelou was an associate of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List. With the publishing of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. Angelou's work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a willful attempt to challenge the common construction of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or banned in US schools and libraries. In 2011, President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. It is well-deserved recognition for Angelou's remarkable and inspiring career in the arts.
Angelou has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that makes the child unable to speak due to the psychological and physical trauma they have endured. In the five-year period that she experienced this, her observing, listening, and memorizing skills improved and her love of books expanded. This helped her later when she began working in becoming successful in her career.)
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women. It's as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet.
The white American man makes the white American woman maybe not superfluous but just a little kind of decoration. Not really important to turning around the wheels of the state. Well the black American woman has never been able to feel that way. No black American man at any time in our history in the United States has been able to feel that he didn't need that black woman right against him, shoulder to shoulder—in that cotton field, on the auction block, in the ghetto, wherever.
Strictly speaking, one cannot legislate love, but what one can do is legislate fairness and justice. If legislation does not prohibit our living side by side, sooner or later your child will fall on the pavement and I'll be the one to pick her up. Or one of my children will not be able to get into the house and you'll have to say, "Stop here until your mom comes here." Legislation affords us the chance to see if we might love each other.
...there is a difference between being convinced and being stubborn. I'm not certain what the difference is, but I do know that if you butt your head against a stone wall long enough, at some point you realize the wall is stone and that your head is flesh and blood.
...talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it.
The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.
We had won. Pimps got out of their polished cars and walked the streets of San Francisco only a little uneasy at the unusual exercise. Gamblers, ignoring their sensitive fingers, shook hands with shoeshine boys.... Beauticians spoke to the shipyard workers, who in turn spoke to the easy ladies.... I thought if war did not include killing, I'd like to see one every year. Something like a festival.
I thought if war did not include killing, I'd like to see one every year.
Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
Stories of law violations are weighed on a different set of scales in the Black mind than in the white. Petty crimes embarrass the community and many people wistfully wonder why Negroes don't rob more banks, embezzle more funds and employ graft in the unions.... This ... appeals particularly to one who is unable to compete legally with his fellow citizens.
The needs of a society determine its ethics, and in the Black American ghettos the hero is that man who is offered only the crumbs from his country's table but by ingenuity and courage is able to take for himself a Lucullan feast. Hence the janitor who lives in one room but sports a robin's-egg-blue Cadillac is not laughed at but admired, and the domestic who buys forty-dollar shoes is not criticized but is appreciated. We know that they have put to use their full mental and physical powers. Each single gain feeds into the gains of the body collective.
... the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.
The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.
My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps.
Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.
Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
Then the question began to live under my blankets: How did lesbianism begin? What were the symptoms? The public library gave information on the finished lesbian—and that woefully sketchy—but on the growth of a lesbian, there was nothing. I did discover that the difference between hermaphrodites and lesbians was that hermaphrodites were "born that way." It was impossible to determine whether lesbians budded gradually, or burst into being with a suddenness that dismayed them as much as it repelled society.
People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn't buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.
In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like.
During those years in Stamps, I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare. He was my first white love.... it was Shakespeare who said, "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." It was a state of mind with which I found myself most familiar. I pacified myself about his whiteness by saying that after all he had been dead so long it couldn't matter to anyone any more.
This might be the end of the world. If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than apes. True that we were stupid and ugly and lazy and dirty and, unlucky and worst of all, that God Himself hated us and ordained us to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, forever and ever, world without end.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
All of childhood's unanswered questions must finally be passed back to the town and answered there. Heroes and bogey men, values and dislikes, are first encountered and labeled in that early environment. In later years they change faces, places and maybe races, tactics, intensities and goals, but beneath those penetrable masks they wear forever the stocking-capped faces of childhood.
I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.
Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.
There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to man.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.
The sadness of the women's movement is that they don't allow the necessity of love. See, I don't personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, "I'm going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough. I am going to snow anyway."
We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
Men themselves have wondered What they see in me. They try so much But they can't touch My inner mystery. When I try to show them, They say they still can't see. I say, It's in the arch of my back, The sun of my smile, The ride of my breasts, The grace of my style. I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.
For Africa to me ... is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning "Good morning" at total strangers.
A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning's greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications.... Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.
As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.
Oh, the holiness of always being the injured party. The historically oppressed can find not only sanctity but safety in the state of victimization. When access to a better life has been denied often enough, and successfully enough, one can use the rejection as an excuse to cease all efforts. After all, one reckons, "they" don't want me, "they" accept their own mediocrity and refuse my best, "they" don't deserve me.
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
Life loves the liver of it.
My life has been one great big joke, A dance that's walked A song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke When I think about myself.
I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.
“Ive learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“What youre supposed to do when you dont like a thing is change it. If you cant change it, change the way you think about it. Dont complain.”
“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you cant practice any other virtue consistently.”
“I dont trust people who dont love themselves and tell me, I love you. ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”