Maya Angelou

1928–2014. An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood’s first female black director, but became most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. By 1975, wrote Carol E. Neubauer in Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, Angelou was recognized “as a spokesperson for… all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees before her death.

Read more about Maya here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/maya-angelou or on her own website here: http://mayaangelou.com/.

Caged Bird

By Maya Angelou, 1928-2014, U.S.

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

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.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

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.

Caged Bird Read More »

Harlem Hopscotch

By Maya Angelou, 1928-2014, U.S.

One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
          Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
          Everybody for hisself.

In the air, now both feet down.
         Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
          Curse and cry and then jump two.

All the people out of work,
         Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
          That’s what hopping’s all about.

Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won.

Harlem Hopscotch Read More »