i know why the caged bird sings
maya angelou
scott evans
wake forest university
May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou: 1928-2014


Maggie: I have got Scott here with me now because we are remembering the life of Maya Angelou, a celebrated poet, author and teacher.

Scott: Maya Angelou was also a singer, actress and director, and at the age of 86 she passed away yesterday leaving behind literary works that will last for generations to come. But it was not just her words that left an impact on people, it was also her life. Here is a look.

Maya Angelou transformed pain into poetry.

Maya Angelou: Up from a past rooted in pain, I rise.

Scott: This would be her message for nearly half a century, to rise above misery and find hope. It is, after all, what Angelou did herself and what led to a life of remarkable accomplishment.

Angelou: Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise into a daybreak miraculously clear.

Scott: She grew up poor in Stamps, Arkansas where, at the age of seven, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After she testified against him, he was murdered. Angelou blamed herself and stopped talking for five years – a long silence before a life of eloquence.

Angelou: But my grandmother, she’d say, ‘sister, mama don’t care what these people say about you being an idiot or you being a moron; mama don’t care. Mama knows that when you and the good Lord get ready, sister, you gon’ be a preacher’.

Scott: She would find her voice again and go on to learn five languages and travel to Africa, where she met civil rights activist Malcolm X and took on a role in the Civil Rights Movement. She also worked with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was devastated when he was assassinated on her 40th birthday. Her most famous works came shortly after. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the story of her childhood. She wrote six volumes of poetry based on her life and was also an actress, songwriter and historian. She won three Grammy Awards and directed and produced films…

Angelou: Cut!

Scott: …And a long-time professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Angelou: If I had taught before I had written books, I might never have written a book. I love to teach. I am a teacher.

Scott: Her poetry brought her to the White House for a reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

Angelou: Come, you may stand upon my back and face your distant destiny.

Scott: And at a Christmas tree lighting for President George W. Bush.

Angelou: We hear a sweetness. A word.

Scott: In 2011, President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

President Obama: She has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their own lives.

Scott: Maya Angelou knew both and turned them into lessons of hope.

One of my favorite quotes from her is, ‘When you learn, teach, and when you get, give’.

Maggie: Love that! What an incredible woman. Thanks so much, Scott.


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