U.S. News


Those Touched By Maya Angelou's Words Of Wisdom Remember Her

Prominent figures reflected on Angelou's wisdom and guidance Wednesday after the poet and author passed away at age 86.
Posted at 12:13 AM, May 29, 2014

Dr. Maya Angelou was many things to many different people — a poet, a traveler, an artist — but upon her death Wednesday, some people expressed gratitude for just one of Angelou's numerous talents: her ability to impart wisdom. (Via Flickr / Burns Library, Boston College)

One of Angelou's pupils was media mogul and talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who posted this picture to her Instagram account. She called Angelou a "mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20's." 

In her later years, Angelou appeared on Winfrey's "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN to talk about, what Winfrey called, the greatest piece of advice her mentor ever offered. 

"There's a place in you that you must keep inviolate. You must keep it pristine, clean so that nobody has the right to curse you." 

Angelou was popular, having known some of the greatest activists in American history... 

"I think Reverend [Martin Luther] King, who showed so much courage himself..." (Via CNN)

... and, of course, U.S. presidents. Before Angelou threw her support behind President Obama, she spoke at President Bill Clinton's Inaugural address in 1993. 

"Lift up your eyes upon this day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream." (Via ABC)

Clinton said Wednesday, "The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace," while Obama called Angelou a "storyteller – and her greatest stories were true." (Via The Clinton Foundation, The White House)

Angelou's wisdom also extended to the hip hop community. Artists, like rapper Common, have even used samples of her voice in their songs. He tweeted Wednesday, "I was thinking about her lately. GOD Bless the Soul of one [of] my heroes."

Angelou sat down with George Stroumboulopoulos last year and told him about some perspective she offered the late rapper Tupac Shakur while shooting the movie "Poetic Justice." 

"I said, 'When was the last time anyone told you how important you are? Did you know our people stood on auction blocks, were sold, bought and sold? Did you know so you could stay alive today?'" (Via CBC)

But she also had a way of affecting people she didn't speak to face-to-face. ​Former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey wrote about being tormented by her stepfather in a Washington Post article.

She says it was Angelou's literary skill that helped her find her own narrative voice in a troubling time: "Maya Angelou’s belief in the power of words had taken hold of me." 

We'll leave you with a poignant message offered by Angelou in a tribute poem to the late Nelson Mandela upon his death late last year. 

"We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us." (Via U.S. Department of State)