Maya Angelou in Her Own Words

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

Here are some quotes by Maya Angelou herself.  Feel and enjoy the wisdom!


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Interview for Beautifully Said Magazine (2012)

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

“I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.”Interview with the Academy of Achievement (1990)

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”  – Excerpted from Letter to My Daughter, a book of essays (2009)

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Angelou’s Facebook (2011)

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”Letter to My Daughter, a book of essays (2009)

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”Interview with Oprah for Angelou’s 70th birthday (2000)

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”The Art of Fiction No. 119, the Paris Review

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” – Angelou’s Facebook (Jan. 11, 2013)

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”Date unknown

“I believe that every person is born with a talent.”Date unknown

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”Interview in USA TODAY (March 5, 1988)

If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”  – This was her final tweet, posted on 23 May 2014.


“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

Yesterday, the world lost one of its greatest poets: Dr. Maya Angelou.  The first poem of Maya Angelou I came across was “Phenomenal Woman,” which really resonated with me.  It was read at a bridal shower I attended in Harlem, and I just loved every single word of it.  Before that, I had read Maya Angelou’s first book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and also watched the movie.  Maya Angelou’s life was not easy: she was raped at age 7, a teenage mother at age 17, a restaurant cook, a prostitute, and a pimp.  She turned her life around, was a professional dancer, singer, actress, and a journalist in Egypt and Ghana.  She won several Grammy awards.  She walked with the greats of this world: Malcolm X whom she met while in Ghana and was going to work with before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Billie Holiday, Oprah Winfrey, and so many others.  President Bill Clinton asked her to read a poem at his inauguration ceremony in 1993, making her the second poet in American history to do so.  Her reading of that poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” won a Grammy award.  President Obama presented her with the presidential medal of freedom in 2011.  She was a professor at Wake Forest University.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

To think that this woman never went to college, never had a PhD, and yet she was a bestselling author, and a professor at a major university.  Billie Holiday once told Maya Angelou that she would be known in this world, but not for her music.  Indeed, Maya Angelou was known throughout the world, definitely not for her music, but for her writings, and particularly for her poetry.  Her life is a testament to truth, and passion: live your passion, do what you are most passionate about, and it does not matter where you come from, or how many degrees you have, you will excel and touch countless lives.  Here is one of my favorite of Maya Angelou’s poems: “Still I Rise.”

Still I Rise

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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
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.

Maya Angelou

“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

In celebration of the Women International Day on March 8th, I decided to post this poem by the great African American poet, Maya Angelou.  It is dedicated to all the women of the world, the gorgeous, natural, and phenomenal women who make up our lives.  Enjoy Phenomenal Woman.

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.
I say,
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
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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.
I say,
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
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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.
I say,
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
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou