Discover the Inspiring Journey & Poem of Maya Angelou as a Poet


A remarkable coincidence exists in the life of Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist. The same year she published her first autobiographical work – 1969 – is also the year she read aloud her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony. This impressive journey encapsulated within a single lifetime has challenged and inspired readers worldwide for decades.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. From an early age, writing became a way for Angelou to endure hardship and express herself creatively. Over time, she developed a unique style that blended autobiography with poetry and elements from African-American culture. In addition to her impactful works such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), And Still I Rise (1978) and Shaker Why Don’t You Sing? (1983), many consider “On the Pulse of Morning” one of Angelou’s most influential pieces.

The inspiring story behind this powerful poem is captivating and timeless; its words possess a lasting beauty that remains relevant today despite being nearly thirty years old. Understanding why it resonates so profoundly with readers worldwide requires delving into its layered meaning with careful attention paid to detail and thoughtfully considering how it connects back to Maya Angelou’s life experiences.

Early Life Of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou had a tumultuous early life. Her grandmother and mother raised her after her parents divorced when she was 3-years old. Maya’s father abandoned his family shortly after that, leaving the young girl to face difficult developments as she grew up. Despite this challenge, Maya showed an interest in literature from a very young age and even wrote her first poem at eight years old.

At the tender age of seven, Maya experienced trauma that would shape much of how she lived her life: She was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. This incident caused the perpetrator to be arrested and later killed while awaiting trial for his crime. It left a lasting psychological impact on Maya, who faced guilt over the death of her attacker throughout her lifetime. Following the incident, Angelou became mute for five years until she was encouraged back into speaking through music and poetry, which marked the start of what came to be one of America’s most influential poetic voices.

Maya Angelou’s Poetic Beginnings

Maya Angelou was one of the most renowned poets in modern history, with over 30 published works and countless awards. With an impressive career spanning six decades, it is no surprise that she has become a respected icon across the world. But what were the beginnings of this iconic poet’s journey?

The poetic genius of Maya Angelou began at an early age; by 17, she had already written her first book, “Just Give Me A Cool Drink Of Water’ Fore I Diiie.” This marked the beginning of a successful writing career as Angelou wrote for newspapers, magazines, plays, television shows, and even feature films. Angelou also been awarded numerous honorary degrees from prestigious universities around the globe.

Angelou moved from city to city throughout her life but always found solace in poetry. Her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” earned worldwide recognition when it was recited during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993. Additionally, Angelou received more than 50 honorary doctorates throughout her career from esteemed institutions such as Harvard University and Oxford University. Much of her time was spent lecturing on topics ranging from race relations to African American culture at various colleges and universities.

Angelou maintained a strong presence through all aspects of media until 2014, when she passed away at 86 years old, leaving behind an incomparable legacy that will continue to inspire generations. From honors bestowed upon her to notable works created by her pen – Maya Angelou stands tall amongst writers today as one who achieved greatness against all odds.

Maya Angelou’s Autobiographical Works

Maya Angelou is a renowned poet and author who’s autobiographical works have captivated readers worldwide. Her journey began with her being abused by her mother’s boyfriend, which started the sequence of events that led to Maya’s poetic beginnings. She eventually became an internationally celebrated writer and was recognized by Presidents Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama for her contributions.

In 1993, Bill Clinton honored her work at his Presidential Inauguration ceremony when he asked her to recite one of her poems. This honor was only one of many she has achieved throughout her career, including Honorary Degrees from numerous universities and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by Pres. Barack Obama. These awards are testaments to the impact of Maya’s words on generations around the globe. The themes explored in much of Maya Angelou’s writing reflect upon personal experiences such as racism, identity, family relationships, physical abuse, love, and loss – all topics that anyone can relate to regardless of background or age. As a result of this relatability, she continues to be admired even after passing away in 2014.

How Maya Angelou’s Work Has Influenced Barack Obama

Coincidentally, the influence of Maya Angelou’s work on Pres. Obama is undeniable. As a poet and writer, she has been held up as his example of how to develop one’s voice and courageously use it to spread positive change in the world:

  1. Her autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” was gifted to him by Oprah Winfrey when he began his presidential campaign
  2. At his 2009 inauguration ceremony, he quoted from Angelou’s poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’
  3. During an interview with PEOPLE magazine in 2017, Obama said that Angelou had been among those writers who had inspired him.

Her words were chosen as a gift in his initial run for office; they served as part of his inaugural speech. Finally, when interviewed about what drives him personally, she was recognized as a source of inspiration. This demonstrates how deeply her poetry resonated with Obama even before he became president -and its connotations of empowerment serve as a reminder to all seeking mastery over their destinies.

Other Resources: YouTube – Maya Angelou received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Given by Pres. Obama

The Role Of Oprah Winfrey In Supporting Maya Angelou

Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to the legacy of Maya Angelou. Through their close friendship and support for each other, Oprah made it her mission to preserve the poet’s work and honor her memory long after she passed away in 2014. As a result, they share an invaluable bond that has enabled them to reach successes beyond what they could have achieved alone, a true testament to “strength in numbers.”

This connection between the two began around 2005 when Oprah invited Maya to her show as a guest and a mentor who would inspire women everywhere with her brilliant words. From there, the relationship only grew closer; whether at award shows or on set during special events meant to celebrate Maya’s greatness, Oprah always had something kind yet powerful to say about her friend. Indeed, many consider this genuine care from one woman towards another as a significant factor in helping Maya stay focused on her craft despite adversity.

In addition to providing emotional support for each other through time spent together, Oprah also worked hard behind the scenes alongside publishers and networks to ensure that Maya’s works were widely available across all mediums – books, television series, documentaries, etc.; she went above and beyond by creating content such as the acclaimed PBS documentary “American Masters: May Angelou” which showcased how much impact this extraordinary poet had on society. With Oprah standing firmly beside her every step of the way, we can safely assume that Maya felt empowered knowing she had someone like Winfrey advocating for her cause.

Other Influential Writers Who Inspired Maya Angelou

Throughout her career, Maya Angelou was greatly influenced by other writers. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she had a close relationship and shared the same hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, influenced her work. She also attended the Harlem Writers Guild, where she met Guy Johnson, who became a mentor for her writing. As an African American woman living in the time of civil rights activism, many of her works were heavily based on this movement. For example, in 1993, she received the National Medal of Arts from Pres. Clinton’s administration for being a leader in developing literature within the civil rights era.

Moreover, Mary Jane Lupton was another writer that inspired Angelou’s work during her early life. While attending California Labor school, they joined Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Later on, Angelou would become Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University which was honored with one of the highest civilian honors given by Pres. Clinton. All these influential figures were able to shape Maya Angelou into becoming the great poet that we know today and left behind a legacy that still inspires generations around the world.

Significance Of Her Legacy To The Literary World

Maya Angelou is an American poet who has left a legacy in the literary world. Her books of poetry, essay collections, and use of fiction writing techniques made her a well-known figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Furthermore, she was also known as a freelance writer who wrote feature articles for many magazines and newspapers.

Apart from that, Her most significant contribution to literature came with her powerful inaugural poem “On The Pulse Of Morning” during Pres. Clinton’s inauguration ceremony in 1993. It became one of the greatest works of art ever written at such an event and won global recognition, further strengthening her influence on literature worldwide.

In addition, Marcia Ann Gillespie noted that there is no other work like hers due to her ability to follow strict chronology while covering multiple topics within each of her poems or essays. Ultimately, this makes her legacy truly remarkable in terms of its impact on modern society through literature alone.

Appreciate Her Great Works (Poems & Teachings)

Her legacy is a beacon of light to the literary world. Her inspiring journey from hardship and tragedy to become an esteemed professor of American studies, poet, activist, and author cannot be understated. In her younger days, Angelou joined a dance troupe that toured Europe in the late 1940s while experiencing racism firsthand and was raped as a child. Despite these challenges, she persevered and became one of America’s most renowned writers who spoke out against injustice. For her contributions to literature, she was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for “outstanding service to the American literary community” in 2013.

The encouragement to read and appreciate her work should not be overlooked. Her poems are heartbreakingly honest and uplifting at the same time. Through them, readers can gain insight into what it means to go through life despite all its hardships and still have faith in humanity. Whether you are already a fan or new to her works, take some time out of your day today for yourself – slip away into another land with Maya Angelou by reading one of her many beautiful poems. She embodies what it means to turn adversity into artistry – something we could all learn from in our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Awards And Honors Has Maya Angelou Received Throughout Her Career?

Satirically speaking, it can be said that Maya Angelou could have been named ‘Honors McHonors’ due to the sheer number of recognitions she has achieved throughout her life! From the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 to having over 50 honorary degrees from esteemed universities such as Harvard, Duke and Yale – this remarkable woman is certainly no stranger to recognition.

The list does not end there; amongst many other awards for literature and activism, Maya Angelou was also granted the Langston Hughes Medal by City College of New York in 1997. Perhaps most notably, though, she became the first African-American woman director in Hollywood when her film ‘Down In The Delta’ premiered in 1998. It is no surprise that Time magazine included Angelou on their 100 Most Important People Of The Century list. Her legacy truly lives on through her work and continues to inspire generations all around the world today.

What Are Some Of Maya Angelou’s Most Famous Poems?

She is well-known for capturing the nuances of emotion within complex human relationships and exploring difficult topics such as racism or identity. As a result, she has produced some of the most memorable poems in modern literature. Like a lighthouse bringing clarity to choppy seas, Angelou’s works have illuminated our understanding of ourselves and each other.

One of her best-known works is ‘Still I Rise,’ a poem that celebrates resilience despite adversity. In it, she uses imagery like “a diamond in the rough” to describe herself while conveying strength through an uplifting tone.

Another famous work is ‘Phenomenal Woman,’ which describes female beauty with confidence and pride; this poem became so successful it was even featured on Oprah Winfrey’s show! Her ability to combine raw emotion with vivid language makes these pieces enduringly relevant today. All in all, Angelou’s famous poems demonstrate why she continues to captivate audiences around the world – they are examples of true literary mastery.

How Did Maya Angelou’s Work Influence Popular Culture?

It is difficult to deny her poetic work’s influence on popular culture. Her words were powerful and inspired a generation of people worldwide, and her unique style has been celebrated in many forms. However, some may question how far-reaching this impact was and if it made an impression on society.

Her poetry transcended language barriers to reach audiences everywhere — from books beloved by children to films that moved adults. Her words resonated with everyone who encountered them. From her autobiographical works such as I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to poem collections like And Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman, which have become timeless classics, there are few more recognizable figures than Maya Angelou in modern literature. Through spoken word live performances, television appearances, and even Grammy-winning albums, she spread her message across multiple mediums for decades until her death in 2014.

Her ability to capture the human experience through vivid storytelling continues to make an indelible mark upon our culture today – from songs sampled from her catalog up to United States postage stamps commemorating her legacy. It is clear then that her influence extended far beyond just literature into mainstream media and public discourse, making a lasting impression on generations of readers, listeners, and viewers alike.

What Is The Relationship Between Maya Angelou And Oprah Winfrey?

It is often said that “great minds think alike,” and this could not be truer for the friendship between Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. The two powerful, inspirational women had a deep connection and admiration for one another’s work and accomplishments. Both have been successful in their respective fields – Angelou as a poet and author and Winfrey as an entertainer, media mogul, and philanthropist.

The pair first met in 1983 when Winfrey was working on her television show AM Chicago. After getting to know each other during the interview, they became lifelong friends with mutual respect for each other’s talents. Over the years, both have praised each other publicly through social media posts or interviews; some of these moments include Angelou describing Winfrey as “a generation’s teacher” while Winfrey has referred to Angelou as her “mentor” who taught her how to live life fully. In addition to words of praise, both women also recognize their shared experiences such as poverty, racism, sexism, abuse and violence which makes it easier for them to understand one another at a deeper level.

Her influence can be seen throughout popular culture today due to her inspiring journey and the legacy she left behind after passing away in 2014. Her relationship with Winfrey is an example of female solidarity that continues to inspire generations worldwide. Together they represent strength in numbers by showing us that we can overcome our struggles if we support each other along the way.

How Did Maya Angelou’s Work Influence Other Writers?

She was known for her lyrical and thought-provoking writing style, resonating with many readers. Her works were powerful and inspiring, leaving great impressions in the minds of those who read them. Here are four ways she impacted other authors:

  1. Her poetry explored themes of racism, identity and oppression from a unique perspective that moved people to tears. This inspired other poets to be more honest about their struggles when creating their works.
  2. Her writings encouraged others to express themselves without fear or shame, allowing them to find strength in vulnerability and freedom in truth-telling. As such, her words have helped countless individuals discover courage within themselves and tell stories that resonate deeply with readers worldwide.
  3. Through her books, speeches and interviews, Angelou provided insight into topics such as inequality, social justice and civil rights, shaping the views of millions of people worldwide. By doing so, she opened our eyes to new perspectives while reminding us of our shared humanity, regardless of race or religion.
  4. Lastly, her legacy spurred a resurgence in African American literature by introducing new ideas about black culture that weren’t previously seen as valuable or important enough to discuss openly in public discourse. Consequently, this gave rise to a wave of talented black writers who felt encouraged by her example and proud to share their creative voices with the world.

Her impact continues today through the generations of authors she has influenced; it can even be seen among modern-day youth movements such as Black Lives Matter, where activists often incorporate quotes from her work into their protest signs and slogans. In this way, Maya Angelou will always remain an iconic figure whose message remains true long after her passing – that every voice matters no matter who you are or your background.


Her work has left a lasting impact on the literary world and culture. The awards, honors, and recognition bestowed upon her are a testament to this. Her powerful words have inspired generations of readers around the globe with their honesty, wisdom, and beauty. From “Still I Rise” to “Phenomenal Woman,” Maya Angelou wrote some of the most celebrated poems of all time. Through her writing, she spoke for those silenced by society, uplifting them unprecedentedly.

Her influence extended beyond literature; for instance, her decades-long friendship with Oprah Winfrey saw both women become icons of strength and resilience. Moreover, her work encouraged other writers to express themselves freely without fear or prejudice. She was a towering figure that will never be forgotten – a poetic colossus whose extraordinary life story is nothing short of phenomenal!

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