Whenever a public figure passes away, I can expect that for the next few days my social media will be abuzz with articles, remembrances and general mentions of said person. So it has come as no surprise that since Maya Angelou’s death on Thursday May 28 my Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds, as well as many other websites and blogs that I frequent, have been brimming with content on the life, works and death of Angelou. However, as I have scrolled through the many posts and tweets in response to Angelou’s life and death over the past few days I have been struck by the genuine outpouring of emotions people are expressing. It felt somehow unique, somehow more personal than the usual “rest in peace” and “they will be missed” messages I usually see.
I was particularly moved by a Facebook post by a good friend of mine who teaches high school English who posted late in the day on the 28th long after all of the initial posts of surprise and sadness had flooded my news feed, she said:
“I spent some time today thinking about what I love so much about Maya Angelou, and I’ve decided it’s the fact that she made me feel powerful, in all the positive connotations of that word.”
Go to Angelou’s Wikipedia page or any site detailing her biography and you can learn that “she published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies and television shows spanning more than 50 years” (Wikipedia). And Angelou’s resume was as varied and interesting as her writing. In her lifetime she was a poet, civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress and professor, just to name a few of the occupations she held in her 86 years of life.
It’s hard to think of a better epitaph for a woman who once said “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.”
Dig Deeper: Maya Angelou
If you’re interested in learning more about Maya Angelou, we have some resources to recommend:
Books in our catalog written by Maya Angelou
Books about Maya Angelou and critical companions to her works:
- · Maya Angelou : the poetry of living
- · Maya Angelou : a critical companion:
- · Critical companion to Maya Angelou : a literary reference to her life and work
- · Conversations with Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s official website (pretty bogged down right now, may not open due to heavy traffic)
Maya Angelou (4 April 1928-). Lynn Z. Bloom
Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers. Ed. Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris-Lopez. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 38. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. p3-12.
- Maya Angelou reciting her poem “Phenomenal Woman.”
- Maya Angelou reciting her poem, “And Still I Rise” reflecting on the sufferings of Africans and the denial of African history, published in 1978
- 10 video clips from the National Visionary Leadership Project oral history interview with Maya Angelou recorded in 2002 (these are really nice.)
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