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Last Updated on January 9, 2023

Imagine yourself as a black woman in the 1950s, divorced and dancing in clubs for a living, even accepting money to be bedded for the night. Especially at an era when racial segregation still existed and the civil rights movement was at its peak, it could be very lonely and morale-breaking. But not for one black woman who took all of the circumstances against her as a challenge to fight back. That woman is Maya Angelou.

Early Life

Her name was not always Maya Angelou. The great force of a woman was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. Maya was a loving nickname her older brother gave her, derived from “my-a-sister.” At the age of four, her parents separated. The two children were sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, close enough for two young children to be traveling alone via train from St. Louis, Missouri, during the early 1930s. Perhaps this living arrangement was economically favorable to all involved. This was the early years of the Great Depression, and black people were in worse situations than everyone else. But not her grandmother, the wise old woman who prospered by selling basic commodities that people couldn’t do without.

Their father came back for them after four years and whisked them away in the blink of an eye, only to leave them again but this time with their mother, who was living with a boyfriend. Maya was raped by the man. She told her brother and he told their relatives, but while the rapist was found guilty, he only stayed one night at the prison. Days after, the man was found dead, and it was speculated that her uncles took justice into their own hands.

The events left a young Maya Angelou unable to speak a word for five years. In her mind, she was afraid that her voice killed the man when she spoke about the abuse. She and her brother were sent back to live with their paternal grandmother.

Silent Rivers Run Deep

During those years of silence, she developed an extraordinary mind. With the help of teacher Bertha Flowers, she started reading the works of several great poets and authors. She was highly observant, an excellent listener and often in deep thought. Eventually, she was able to speak again.

In 1940, Maya and her brother moved to California to be with their mother. The West held a promise of better job prospects and better schools.

By 16, she started working and became the very first black cable car conductress. At her first job, she worked harder than most at the advice of her mother—simply because she was young, female, and most especially because she was black.

At 17, she finished high school while pregnant with her son.

During this time, black people continued to arrive in San Francisco after the World War in hopes of a better life. The locals were not prepared to accept the change. Racism and segregation dictated the climate of the era. Even neighborhoods were strictly drawn with a line. The projects were to keep black people in place and away from white people. To this day, this horrible racism is the root cause of the current housing problem of San Francisco.

Against All Odds

Approval was clearly not something Maya sought when she married a white man, even as her mother disapproved. It was during this time that she started taking dance classes and learning about different dances of different origins.

Her marriage ended after four years. She had herself and her son to feed, so she sang and danced at bars. She would also accept money in exchange for being bedded for the night. This was the time when she took on Maya Angelou as her public persona. Eventually, she would tour Europe to perform under the production company she was employed with. She did not waste an opportunity to acquaint herself with the language and culture of each country she visited. All that, and she even found time to be a recording artist!

You can say that Maya Angelou is one of the first multi-hyphenate divas who may have set a precedent for the Beyoncés of this world. Her writing career began at the encouragement of John Oliver Killens, an American novelist whose stories focused on the many aspects of African-American lives. Maya moved to New York and met many other inspiring writers at the Harlem Writers Guild.

The political climate of the time was ripe with the civil rights movement. It heavily influenced Maya’s writing and activism, which she would become most famous for. With a life painted with almost every color you could imagine, Maya Angelou certainly did not have a shortage of experiences and memories to draw from. Besides her novels, poetry collections, plays, and speeches, she is also best known for her seven autobiographies. Indeed, she spent her life baring her soul and throwing skeletons out of their closets.

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Here are some of the most empowering Maya Angelou quotes that are sure to inspire you:

Maya Angelou Quotes

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” – Maya Agelou

“In all the world there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world there is no love for you like mine,” – Maya Angelou

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry, to et my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept their love in return.” – Maya Angelou

“Love recognizes no barriers. Love jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination. Full of hope.” – Maya Angelou

“To those who have given up on love. I say “Trust life a little bit.” – Maya Angelou

“I know for sure that love saves me and that it is here to save us all.” – Maya Angelou

“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” – Maya Angelou

“Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved, and that kind of love comes with age.” – Maya Angelou

“Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” – Maya Angelou

“In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave and suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.” – Maya Angelou

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” – Maya Angelou

“Love liberates love. Not sentimentally, not mush. But true love gives you enough courage that you can say to somebody – “Don’t do that baby.” And the personl will know you’re not preaching but teaching.” – Maya Angelou

“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me “I love you”. There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” – Maya Angelou

“Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – Maya Angelou

“Open your eyes to the beauty around you. Open your mind to the wonders of life. Open your heart to those who love you and always be true to yourself.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve never had a dislike for men. I’ve been treated badly by some. But I’ve been loved greatly by some.” – Maya Angelou

“We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” – Maya Angelou

“I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I life it – I believe life loves the liver out of it. I live it.” – Maya Angelou

“God loves me. It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me and I’m amazed at it.” – Maya Angelou

“Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.” – Maya Angelou

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to someone you love.” – Maya Angelou

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” – Maya Angelou

“I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman. That’s me.” – Maya Angelou

“A woman’s heart must be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him to find her.” – Maya Angelou

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

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“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” – Maya Angelou

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

“A wise woman wishes to be on one’s enemy, a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” – Maya Angelou

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” – Maya Angelou

“Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible and live long lives.” – Maya Angelou

“I sustain myself with the love of family.” – Maya Angelou

“The love of the family, the love of one person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive powerful society.” – Maya Angelou

“I learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” – Maya Angelou

“When the human race neglects it’s weaker members, when the family neglects the weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement.” – Maya Angelou

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

“If you find it in your heart to care for some else, you will have succeeded.” – Maya Angelou

“Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success and then just get a little more.” – Maya Angelou

“It is always about the work. In the latter days of your life your happiness and your self-esteem will be determined by the mountains you surmounted, the valleys you climb out of, and the life and /or career that you forged for yourself.” – Maya Angelou

“Happiness is a chance to talk to a friend, to hear good music, to have a good glass of wine. Happiness is a chance to be myself and to find people with whom I agree or who I don’t agree but I can learn something.” – Maya Angelou

“When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness. All the good things.” – Maya Angelou

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” – Maya Angelou

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” – Maya Angelou

“You may shoot me with your worlds. You may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness. But still like air, I’ll rise.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“You alone are enough, you have nothing to prove to anyone.” – Maya Angelou

“The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination.” – Maya Angelou

“A friend may be waiting behind a strangers face.” – Maya Angelou

“At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender in its place, was as honerable as resistance. Especially if one had no choice.” – Maya Angelou

“It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. To forgive. Forgive everybody.” – Maya Angelou

“If you are always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

“I love the song ‘I hope you dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. I was going to write that song, but someone beat me to it.” – Maya Angelou

“We may encounter defeats but we must never be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.” – Maya Angelou

“Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some lonliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us ins more alike than we are unalike.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.” – Maya Angelou

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

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“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

“There is nothing greater that you can say to God than thank you, thank you.” – Maya Angelou

“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” – Maya Angelou

“You can’t use up creativity the more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that you should’t go through life with a cathcer’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou

“History despite it’s wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou

“We need much less than we think we need.” – Maya Angelou

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” – Maya Angelou

“Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage means we face our fears. We are able to say – “I have fallen, but I will get up.” – Maya Angelou

“If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me.” – Maya Angelou

“No matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life does go gon, and it will be better tomorrow.” – Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” – Maya Angelou

“You don’t need another person, place or thing to make you whole. God already did that. Your job is to know it.”- Maya Angelou

“When you give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

“Human beings are more alike than we are un-alike and let us see that and not only cherish but delight in the differences because the differences are superficial and they should delight us.” – Maya Angelou

“I know that a diamond is a result of extreme pressure. Less time and less pressure and it’s just crystal or coal or fossilized leaves or just dirt. But, time and pressure will create a diamond.” – Maya Angelou

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” – Maya Angelou

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erractically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou

“Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are – cheerful, kind, loving courteous,. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.” – Maya Angelou

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

“I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.” – Maya Angelou

“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be one my own side.” – Maya Angelou

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou

“We must be warriors in the struggle against ignorance.” – Maya Angelou

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.” – Maya Angelou

“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou

“Travel to as many destinations as possible for the sake of education as well as pleasure.” – Maya Angelou

“Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.” – Maya Angelou