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Maya Angelou

  • At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.

  • If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unncessary insult.

  • To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.

  • But what mother and daughter understand each other, or even have the sympathy for each other's lack of understanding?

  • Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

  • ... the need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.

  • I believe most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.

  • My life has been one great big joke, / A dance that's walked / A song that's spoke, / I laugh so hard I almost choke / When I think about myself.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "When I Think About Myself," Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ... 'Fore I Diiie ()
  • Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

  • The music was my friend, my lover, my family.

  • Nobody, but nobody / Can make it out here alone.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "Alone," Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well ()
  • Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

  • Whites were as constant in our history as the seasons and as unfamiliar as affluence.

  • My pride had been starched by a family who assumed unlimited authority in its own affairs.

  • ... jealousy is conceived only in insecurity and must be nourished in fear.

  • I'm the same person I was back then, / A little less hair, a little less chin, / A lot less lungs and much less wind, / But ain't I lucky I can still breathe in.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "On Aging," And Still I Rise ()
  • I'm a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That's me.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "Phenomenal Woman," And Still I Rise ()
  • You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I'll rise.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "Still I Rise," And Still I Rise ()
  • If I wanted to write, I had to be willing to develop a kind of concentration found mostly in people awaiting execution.

  • ... making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.

  • My people had used music to soothe slavery's torment or to propitiate God, or to describe the sweetness of love and the distress of lovelessness, but I knew no race could sing and dance its way to freedom.

  • Intelligence always had a pornographic influence on me.

  • If one is lucky a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.

  • ... her large hips fluttered as if a bird, imprisoned in her pelvis was attempting flight.

  • Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Judith Paterson, "Interview: Maya Angelou," Vogue ()
  • You may not get what you paid for, but you will pay for what you get.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Merla Zellerbach, "The Best Quips of 1982," San Francisco Chronicle ()
  • You never get over the fear of writing.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Paul Rosenfield, "Angelou: The Caged Bird Still Sings," L.A. Times Calendar ()
  • All riddles are blues, / And all blues are sad, / And I'm only mentioning / Some blues I've had.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "A Good Woman Feeling Bad," Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? ()
  • I try to live what I consider a 'poetic existence.' That means I take responsibility for the air I breathe and the space I take up. I try to be immediate, to be totally present for all my work.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • I believe talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it. Electricity makes no judgment. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. Electricity will do all that. It makes no judgment. I think talent is like that. I believe every person is born with talent.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • I've tried to be totally present, so that when I'm finished with a piece of work, I'm finished. ... The work, once completed, does not need me. The work I'm working on needs my total concentration. The one that's finished doesn't belong to me anymore. It belongs to itself.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • Reality has changed chameleonlike before my eyes so many times that I have learned, or am learning, to trust almost anything except what appears to be so.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) ()
  • ... I certainly do not adore the writer's discipline. I have lost lovers, endangered friendships, and blundered into eccentricity, impelled by a concentration which usually is to be found only in the minds of people about to be executed in the next half hour.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) ()
  • Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

  • The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished and pruned, pricks most deeply and draws more blood.

  • The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

  • The breezes of the West African night were intimate and shy, licking the hair, sweeping through cotton dresses with unseemly intimacy, then disappearing into the utter blackness.

  • We were Black Americans in West Africa, where for the first time in our lives the color of our skin was accepted as correct and normal.

  • Being physically close to extreme power causes one to experience a giddiness, an intoxication.

  • Blacks concede that hurrawing, jibing, jiving, signifying, disrespecting, cursing, even outright insults might be acceptable under particular conditions, but aspersions cast against one's family call for immediate attack.

  • Tragedy, no matter how sad, becomes boring to those not caught in its addictive caress.

  • The future was plump with promise.

  • Then I pillowed myself in goodness and slept righteously.

  • We agreed that great men and women should be forced to live as long as possible. The reverence they enjoyed was a life sentence, which they could neither revoke nor modify.

  • ... we may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Devinia Sookia, "Singing, Swinging, and Still Living Life to the Full," Caribbean Times ()
  • You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Jackie Kay, "The Maya Character," Marxism Today ()
  • Can you imagine if this country were not so afflicted with racism? Can you imagine what it would be like if the vitality, humor, and resilience of the black American were infused throughout this country?

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Brian Lanker, I Dream a World ()
  • There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Brian Lanker, I Dream a World ()
  • A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing in nothing.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Brian Lanker, I Dream a World ()
  • Always in the black spirituals there's that promise that things are going to be better, by and by.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • interview ()
  • Life loves the liver of it.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • 1977, in Jeffrey M. Elliot, ed., Conversations With Maya Angelou ()
  • You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Jeffrey M. Elliot, ed., Conversations With 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,
    • 1977, in Jeffrey M. Elliot, ed., Conversations With Maya Angelou ()
  • History, despite its wrenching pain, / Cannot be unlived, and if faced / With courage, need not be lived again.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "On the Pulse of Morning," inauguration poem ()
  • A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a woman called by a devaluing name will only be weakened by the misnomer.

  • ... if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person with God, constitutes the majority? That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums. And it also liberates me. I am a big bird winging over high mountains, down into serene valleys. I am ripples of waves on silver seas. I'm a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.

  • I'm startled or taken aback when people walk up to me and tell me they are Christians. My first response is the question 'Already?'

  • Failure? / I'm not ashamed to tell it, / I never learned to spell it. / Not Failure.

  • ... jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.

  • Language. I loved it. And for a long time I would think of myself, of my whole body, as an ear.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • Baby, all you have to do is stay black and die ... The work is the thing, and what matters at the end of the day is, were you sweet, were you kind, did you get the work done?

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Nellie Bly, Oprah: Up Close and Down Home ()
  • Human beings are more alike than unalike. Whether in Paris, Texas, or Paris, France, we all want to have good jobs where we are needed and respected and paid just a little more than we deserve. We want healthy children, safe streets, to be loved and have the unmitigated gall to accept love. If we are religious, we want a place to perpetuate God. If not, we want a good lecture every once in a while. And everyone wants someplace to party on Saturday nights.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • speech ()
  • We can only know where we're going if we know where we've been.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Parade Magazine ()
  • We must create a climate where people agree that human beings are more alike than unalike. The only way to do that is through education.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Parade Magazine ()
  • Without defeats, how do you really know who the hell you are? If you never had to stand up to something — to get up, to be knocked down, and to get up again — life can walk over you wearing football cleats. But each time you do get up, you're bigger, taller, finer, more beautiful, more kind, more understanding, more loving. Each time you get up, you're more inclusive. More people can stand under your umbrella.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Modern Maturity ()
  • Education is a process that goes on 'til death. The moment you see someone who knows she has found the one true way, and can call all the others false, then you know you're in the company of an ignoramus.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Modern Maturity ()
  • Good done anywhere is good done everywhere.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Oprah Winfrey, O's Guide to Life ()
  • You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

  • Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.

  • I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.

  • Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors are mysterious apparitions who come, go, and do strange unfathomable thing in and around the child, the region's only enfranchised citizen.

  • I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

  • In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons.

  • ... moderation in all things. And even moderation in moderation. Don't get too much moderation, you know?

    • Maya Angelou,
    • O: The Oprah Magazine ()
  • You did then, what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Courage allows the successful woman to fail — / and learn powerful lessons — / from the failure / So that in the end / She didn't fail at all.

    • Maya Angelou
  • I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

    • Maya Angelou
  • I weep a lot. I thank God I laugh a lot, too. The main thing in one's own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Don't face the day until you've faced God.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Oh, the holiness of being the injured party.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without it we can't practice any other virtue with consistency.

    • Maya Angelou
  • One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.

    • Maya Angelou
  • I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Poetry helps my soul escape its encasement.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

    • Maya Angelou
  • People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

    • Maya Angelou
  • You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

    • Maya Angelou
  • You shouldn't go through life with catcher's mitts on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Life sometimes gives you a second chance.

    • Maya Angelou
  • If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

  • All people use food for more reasons than pure nutrition.

  • Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.

  • Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

    • Maya Angelou
  • My wish for you / Is that you continue / To let gratitude be the pillow / Upon which you kneel to / Say your nightly prayer.

  • The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Ann Kannings, Maya Angelou: Her Words ()
  • When people show you who they are, believe them.

    • Maya Angelou
  • Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • Twitter ()
  • If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Ann Kannings, Maya Angelou: Her Words ()

Maya Angelou, U.S. writer, poet, entertainer, dancer, producer

(1928 - 2014)

Born: Marguerite Ann Johnson.