Maya Angelou

(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)

Quotations

  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. interview broadcast, Nov. 21, 1973. "A Conversation with Maya Angelou," Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989).
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  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. interview, Nov. 21, 1973. "A Conversation with Maya Angelou," Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989).
  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American author and performer. As quoted in I Dream a World, by Brian Lanker (1989).
  • ''...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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author and performer. As quoted in Reel Women, part 4, by Ally Acker (1991). Said in 1979, on giving up her attempt to be named director of the television version of the first volume of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
  • ''...talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author and performer. Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 1, by Claudia Tate (1983).
  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Caged Bird, Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? (1983).
  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, prologue (1974).
  • ''I thought if war did not include killing, I'd like to see one every year.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American author and performer. Gather Together in My Name, ch. 1 (1974). On the sense of "festival" in the San Francisco African American community that followed the announcement of victory in World War II.
  • ''Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, ch. 6 (1974).
  • ''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.''
    Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 29 (1970).

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The Detached

We die,
Welcoming Bluebeards to our darkening closets,
Stranglers to our outstretched necks,
Stranglers, who neither care nor
care to know that
DEATH IS INTERNAL.

We pray,
Savoring sweet the teethed lies,

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