They Came To Stay Maya Angelou Essay

Essay Personal Perseverance in the Works of Maya Angelou

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Personal Perseverance in the Works of Maya Angelou

Internationally respected brilliant poet, historian, and author Maya Angelou says "in all my work I try to tell the human truth-what it is like to be human...what makes us stumble and fumbleand fall and somehow miraculously rise and go on from the darkness and into the light (Ebony 96). This theme is consistently exemplified throughout Angelou's greatly acclaimed autobiographical worksand poems such as I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in my Name, Still I Rise and Phenomenal Women. All of these books depict the true-life stories of Ms. Maya Angelou's tragedies, and there dreadful conditions she had encountered in her youth. But in all of Angelou's novels and…show more content…

Throughout Angelou's autobiography she consistently returns to the subject of her calamitous rape the racial hatred that left Angelou in a horrible emotional state, and, as well, left her feeling helpless and trapped , not understanding who she really was. Angelou's will to never stay a prisoner, to never stay quit and to fly away from that horrible life is also expressed in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, where she writes " the bird that stalks down the narrow cage can seldomthrough his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing (86)."

In 1937 Angelou stopped talking and became mute following her rape.Instead she became an observer of everything around her,including the racial divisions of her town. Angelou's "knapsack of misery" is illustrated in this book as well as the pain of her self discovery, and, most of al, the book depicts the love and joy of being and understanding of who she was and is: a strong, black, beautiful women.

Maya Angelou's poems, collected in volumes such as Still I Rise and Phenomenal Women have received great critical acclaim. These poems briefly summarize the hardship Angelou has encountered. But once again she leaves the reader spellbound with her unwillingness to stay down and her overwhelming strenth. Angelou write in the poem Still I Rise:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in

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This  Web page  about Maya Angelou is done in tribute to her life and work , on the occasion of Hearts Day 2005 at Howard University.  Because Maya Angelou is such a multitalented and accomplished artist and wise woman, the task of exhausting the voluminous material which has been written by and about this one individual professor, academic, writer, poet, entertainer, public speaker, philosopher, essayist ...   becomes daunting.

Having thus stated these sobering facts, the guide has, as much as possible, merged academic with art to reflect the the totality of who  Maya Angelou is .  It is an excellent source for academic writing, and a wonderful muse.  I hope you enjoy perusing it,  as much as I enjoyed developing this page.
                                                                             Celia C. Daniel: Bibliographer


The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence.  It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.                                                                            Maya Angelou

Biographical Essay 
By Kim Gaines, African - American Village, 2003

Maya Angelou personifies the resilience of the human spirit. The experiences of her childhood during the 1930's and 1940's in a racially segregated South, ultimately contributed to her philosophy of endurance despite defeat, and nurtured the author, poet, actress, playwright, film director and producer, and civil rights activist that we celebrate today. She is, in the words of her own famous poem, a "phenomenal woman" indeed.

Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. The daughter of Bailey and Vivian Baxter Johnson, Angelou acquired the name Maya from her beloved brother Bailey Jr., who preferred "Maya," to "my sister." When their parent's marriage ended in divorce, young Maya and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, whom they lovingly called, "Momma." This period in Angelou's life constitutes much of the content in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first and most widely acclaimed in her continuing series of best-selling autobiographies. In this volume, Angelou recounts the chilling incident of her rape at the age of eight by one of her mother's friends during one of Maya's sporadic stays in St. Louis with her estranged mother. It was a violation that forced the devastated child into years of unbroken silence. As an unwed mother at the age of sixteen, Angelou was, nonetheless, bent on self-sufficiency, and took various odd jobs in order to sustain herself and her son Clyde (later known as Guy). Her second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, chronicles this period of struggle in which Angelou found in dance, the beginnings of what would come to be a heralded and multifaceted career.

                                         A Youthful Maya Angelou in 1954

Courtesy of G. Paul BishopJunior: Photographer. Images

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.                                                                                 Maya Angelou

Biographical Essay - Continued
By Kim Gaines, African - American Village, 2003
Angelou married Tosh Angelos, a sailor of Greek decent, in 1952, but Tosh's atheist ideals grew to be unacceptable to the devoutly religious Maya, and the marriage soon soured. Angelou's characteristic determination to emerge victorious from defeat, led her to a job as a dancer and bar girl in a strip joint where, once again, against all odds, she would reap success in the midst of meager circumstances. A gig as a singer and dancer in a trendy San Francisco club called The Purple Onion followed, and led to a role in a production of Porgy and Bess, with which she toured internationally for nearly a year.

Upon her return, Angelou moved with her son to New York, where she sang at various clubs including the acclaimed Apollo Theater in Harlem. During this time too, Angelou honed her writing skills with the esteemed Harlem Literary Guild, where she made contacts that eventually led to her recognition as producer, director, and performer in Cabaret for Freedom. The off-Broadway revue, produced as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was a collaborative production with comedian Godfrey Cambridge. Angelou's organizational savvy brought her an offer in 1960, to succeed Bayard Rustin as the northern coordinator for the SCLC where, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, she involved herself in the ongoing struggle for civil rights. In the same year she met and married, South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make. Again, Angelou and Guy moved; this time with Make to Cairo, Egypt where, despite her husband's restrictions, Angelou took a job as associate editor of the Arab Observer. By 1963, Angelou's second marriage was over and, determined to remain in Africa, Angelou moved to Ghana where, in her writings, she states that she felt at home for the first time in her life. In Ghana, Angelou served as an administrator for the School of Music and Drama at the University of Ghana, and acted as feature editor for the African Review. In subsequent works, Angelou speaks of her experiences in the world of business ( Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, 1976), her emergence as a writer and political activist (The Heart of a Woman, 1981), and the relationship between Africa and black culture in America (All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, 1986). Her books of autobiographical essays, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, and Even the Stars Look Lonesome, speak eloquently of aging, violence, rage, and black women (including her mother and her good friend, Oprah Winfrey). In addition to her obvious love for the spoken word, Angelou's artistic achievements are also evidenced in her numerous television appearances. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in Roots and Georgia, Georgia, a production which in 1971, also brought her notoriety as the first African- American woman to have an original screenplay produced. Among her numerous impressive honors are a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her works of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Die (1971), And Still I Rise (1976), and her membership in the Directors Guild was another first for African-American females. Included in Angelou's most recent commendations is an unprecedented request by Bill Clinton for her to write and deliver a poem for his 1993 presidential inauguration. Clinton describes Angelou as his favorite living poet. Delivered on January 20, 1993, On the Pulse of Morning, became a best-selling book, as it spoke to the undeniable and ultimate oneness of all individual groups, and challenged listeners to embrace their ability to effect the world positively in small, but often profound ways. The legendary poetess also wrote and delivered a poem for the historical Million Man March.

Today, Angelou lectures in the United States and abroad. She is also a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Through her writing as well as her activism toward the cause of improving conditions for women in Third World countries (particularly Africa), Angelou continues to shed light on the possibilities for victory that can accompany seeming defeat. In a 1987 interview, she urged her students to read, especially African-American literature, saying that it reinforces to us that what has come before us has survived and produced. Angelou stressed to her students that this knowing lifts the spirit, and finished by saying, "...You pick yourself, dust yourself off, and prepare to love somebody. I don't mean sentimentality. I mean the condition of the human spirit so profound that it encourages us to build bridges."

The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence.  It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.                                                                             Maya Angelou

No Surrender:  A Conversation With Maya Angelou by Gary Yonge The Guardian,  London, Saturday May 25, 2002.

"Does my sassiness upset you?" she asks in one of her most famous poems, Still I Rise.

"Why are you beset with gloom?
Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room."
                                                   Maya Angelou

Courtesy of G. Paul Bishop Jr.: Photographer

One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.                                  Maya Angelou


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