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Maya Angelou: Black History Month

Marguerite Annie Johnson, better known as Maya Angelou (St. Louis, Missouri; April 4, 1928-Winston-Salem, North Carolina; May 28, 2014), was an American writer, poet, singer, and civil rights activist. He published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. She also participated, either as an actress, dancer, director or producer, in a long list of musicals, plays, films and television programs that were relevant for more than 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than fifty honorary titles.1 As an author, she was best known for her series of seven autobiographies, the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), which describes the weight of racial segregation in his childhood and adolescence earned him international recognition.

Often described as a “Renaissance woman” because of the many talents she developed throughout her life, she became an author and poet after practicing the most diverse professions, from cook, to nightclub dancer or member of the cast of Porgy and Bess, a coordinator of the Southern Conference of Christian Leadership or journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement and collaborated closely with such prominent figures as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. In 1982 she was appointed Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salen, North Carolina. . Later, in 1993, Angelou achieved great notoriety when she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, thus becoming the first poet to participate in a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost in that of John F. Kennedy in 1961.

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, he demonstrated his solvency in a genre, that of autobiography, especially important for the Afro-American minority because it constitutes an open forum in which to report on the sad condition of their race, expose the details of their struggle and promote a more just society. An exceptional witness of her time, the author knew how to transform her experiences into a collective and universal experience. Following in the footsteps of Phillis Wheatley, Maya Angelou is part of that extraordinary group of black writers who managed to leave the marginality to go on to star and shape the literary tradition in which they are inscribed.

“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… – Maya Angelou”

Beginning Black History Month, we present this keychain called “Phenomenal Woman” in honor of Maya Angelou.