You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. She was a poet, historian, author,actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. Maya lectured throughout the US and abroad and was Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981. She published ten best selling books and wrote numerous magazine articles earning her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. At the request of President Clinton, she wrote and delivered a poem at his 1993 presidential inauguration.
Dr. Angelou, who spoke French, Spanish, Italian and West African Fanti, began her career in drama and dance. She married a South African freedom fighter and lived in Cairo where she was editor of The Arab Observer, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. In Ghana, she was feature editor of The African Review and taught at the University of Ghana. In the 1960’s, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year.
Maya Angelou, poet, was among the first African-American women to hit the bestsellers lists with her “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” held the Great Hall audience spellbound with stories of her own childhood. She ranged from story to poem to song and back again, and her theme was love and the universality of all lives. “The honorary duty of a human being is to love,” Angelou said. She spoke of her early love for William Shakespeare’s works, and offered her audience excerpts from the poems of several African-Americans, including James Weldon Johnson and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. But always, she came back to love – and humanity. “I am human,” Angelou said, quoting from her own work, “and nothing human can be alien to me.”
In the sixties, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in 1975 she received the Ladies Home Journal Woman of the Year Award in communications. She received numerous honorary degrees and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Woman’s Year and by President Ford to the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Advisory Council. She is on the board of the American Film Institute and is one of the few female members of the Director’s Guild.
In the film industry, through her work in script writing and directing, Maya Angelou has been a groundbreaker for black women. In television, she has made hundreds of appearances. Her best-selling autobiographical account of her youth, “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings,” won critical acclaim in 1970 and was a two hour TV special on CBS. She has written and produced several prize winning documentaries, including “Afro-Americans in the Arts,” a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in Roots, and her screenplay Georgia, Georgia was the first by a black woman to be filmed. In theatre, she produced, directed and starred in “Cabaret for Freedom” in collaboration with Godfrey Cambridge at New York’s Village Gate; starred in Genet’s “The Blacks” at St Mark’s Playhouse; and adapted Sophocles “Ajax” which premiered in Los Angeles in 1974. She wrote the original screenplay for “Georgia, Georgia” and wrote and produced a ten-part TV series on African traditions in American life. Maya Angelou was Reynolds Professor at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She died at her home in Winston-Salem on May 28, 2014.
( Source: All Poetry – Maya Angelou)