Maya Angelou: Literary Legend & Renaissance Woman

The passing of the great Dr. Maya Angelou was heard like a resounding alarm around the world this morning, May 28, 2014. It’s no secret that Dr. Angelou’s health has been failing for many years, however, that didn’t lessen the shock.  I’m not one to grieve and get all sad and sappy when a famous person dies.  Somehow this one is different.


My first introduction to this literary phenom was as a girl.  I was given the task of memorizing the poem “Phenomenal Woman” for a black history program.  I remember the words leaping from the page and becoming a part of me.  With every sassy neck roll and voice inflection I used to recite it, I felt like the phenomenal woman Dr. Angelou was talking about (an age appropriate version, of course).  I thought I was the bomb.  Some would definitely argue that “phenomenal woman’ attitude is very much present and alive in my spirit today.  Thanks Dr. Angelou (and mom).


She was inspiring then, and she left us with more inspiring words than we probably can handle.  She spoke with such calm and peace.  It made you stop and listen.  ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ was my next experience with the words of Maya Angelou.  Reading about her life and how she overcame multiple hardships will always be motivating.  Think about the trivial challenges we face and how we’re full of complaints.  Makes me think twice.  I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing any of her words and thoughts in person.  I’m kicking myself now as I think about the opportunity I missed when she was in Memphis some years ago.


Her body left us, but her legacy, great works, and especially her spirit will live on.  Dr. Angelou was (and will forever be) a literary legend.  A great renaissance woman. Phenomenally.  I’ve seen many of my favorite “Angelou-isms”  floating around the internet all day, and this post would not be complete without me sharing them with you.  Ironically, many of her quotes are still VERY relevant in today’s society.  My generation needs  to hold on to them, apply them daily, and share them.  Our young people truly, truly need exposure to her great words, so they, too, can begin daily application.  Maybe, just maybe, it’ll make a difference.



Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)


“Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  -Maya Angelou

“Nothing will work unless you do.” -Maya Angelou

“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.” -Maya Angelou

“Love recognizes no barriers.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” -Maya Angelou

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” -Maya Angelou

“I do not true people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’  There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”  -Maya Angelou

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  -Maya Angelou

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, come humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou

My favorite stanza from “Phenomenal Woman” is the last:

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

Do you have any favorite “Angelou-isms?”  If so, please share.  

Feeling inspired,

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