Maya Angelou: Her Love, Her Life, Her Legacy

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This past week, the world lost a truly great human being, Dr. Maya Angelou.

Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) R.I.P. Maya

Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) R.I.P. Maya

The above photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license via Wikipedia Commons

On her official website, her son, Guy B. Johnson, posted this announcement:

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a 
loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

A Brief Biography of Dr. Maya Angelou

There is an old rhyme that begins like this:

Monday’s child is fair of face.
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is loving and giving...

Dr. Maya Angelou was a Wednesday child, both on the day of her birth and her passing.

She was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928.

She passed away in Winston-Salem, NC on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

By the time she was 3, her parents divorced. She and her brother Bailey Johnson Jr. went to live with their grandmother in a segregated section of Stamps, Arkansas (35 miles east of Texarkansas,) where the ignorance and brutality of racial discrimination was rampant.

Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was 8 years old. When her uncles found out, they kicked the rapist to death.

Despite these atrocities, she developed a strong faith.

As a young girl, Maya fell in love with the arts; with singing, dancing, and poetry.

At 12, she moved with her mother and brother to San Francisco where she began dance lessons.

At 16, she had a son and later worked in San Diego as a cook, a nightclub waitress, and for a time fell into drug abuse and prostitution.

But she rose above, for her star was yet to shine.

In her mid-to-late 20’s, Maya won the role of Carla in Porgy and Bess and toured 22 countries.

There was so much to her life. You can read an overview of Maya Angelou’s accomplishments here, but during her 86 years she was a/an:

  • actor, having roles in several movies, some of which were Roots (Nyo Boto), Poetic Justice (Aunt June Calendar), and Madea’s Family Reunion (May.)
  • civil rights activist, having met Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before their untimely assassinations.
  • director and film producer
  • inspiring and prolific author, including 7 historical autobiographies, 3 books of personal essays.
  • narrator in the documentary The Black Candle.
  • passionate healer of hearts
  • powerful poet whose words touched countless lives and whose words live on to inspire us.
  • playwright of 6 plays
  • teacher, educating many children through 7 children’s books, PBS specials and National Education videos.
  • translator, having studied and mastered several languages.

If you wish to see an overview of Maya Angelou’s works, click here.

25 Quotations of Maya Angelou To Live By

  1. A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
  2. A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.
  3. Be present in all things and thankful for all things.
  4. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
  5. Courage is the most important of all virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
  6. Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.
  7. History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
  8. I believe that each of us comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.
  9. If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone to be good to me?
  10. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
  11. If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
  12. 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.
  13. Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
  14. My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
  15. My mission in life is to not merely to survive – but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.
  16. Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
  17. 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.
  18. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
  19. We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
  20. We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.
  21. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
  22. When you learn, teach. When you get, give.
  23. You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.
  24. You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
  25. You may not control all of the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

You can find more wonderful words of Maya Angelou’s wisdom in the 16 books she wrote, offered through her official website here.

This short YouTube video features Dr. Maya Angelou’s message… Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud

Dr. Maya Angelou’s legacy is the God-given wisdom she imparted to the world.

Now, it’s the world’s turn to act upon these words and to live them out.

Be a blessing to somebody! Be Love To Others!

Her last message on Twitter on May 23rd says it all:

Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.

Maya Angelou will be remembered as a great human being and a wonderful humanitarian.

R.I.P. Maya

Join In On The Conversation…

What do you like about Maya Angelou?

Which of her quotes speaks most to you?

What Maya Angelou books or movies do you like best and why?

Share your valuable thoughts here.

Thank you!

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About Bill Butler
William A. Butler is a John C.Maxwell certified coach. He loves to add value to others and aspiring to be a great humanitarian, lives by four words: BE LOVE TO OTHERS. William often goes by "Bill" and is a poet, a songwriter and has an upcoming novel.

57 thoughts on “Maya Angelou: Her Love, Her Life, Her Legacy

  1. Hi Bill, my favourite Maya Angelou quote is #12 and she certainly lived her life by it. A multi-talented woman of great perseverance and integrity, whose writing alone would have made her a giant but who excelled at so much beyond it.
    Paul recently posted…Monday Matters : Cellphone Democracy ?My Profile

    • Hi Paul,
      Yes, she was very considerate of others in regards to #12. I think the diversity of her interests made her a very fascinating person.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Always appreciated.

      Kind Regards,

  2. Reading is how I get by in life. But I have to admit I have never read Maya Angelou. Hence am not able to have an opinion. Having said that all the quotes listed are wise.
    Catarina recently posted…Is the economy complex and evolving?My Profile

    • Hi Catarina,
      I know you are interested in economics. Maya Angelou’s grandmother Annie Henderson ran a grocery store, and in contrast to impoverished African-Americans during the Great Depression, she flourished financially. As you enjoy reading, I think you will enjoy Maya’s books.

      Kind Regards,

  3. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    I believe that people can change if they wish. But only if they wish.
    And I believe in giving them the second chance as well.

    Lovely thoughts here, I also have to admit I had never even heard the name before.


    • Welcome Eve,
      There is so much more to Maya Angelou’s life than could be written of here. I’m glad that at least now you know of her.
      She will remain one of my favorite people as she was a great humanitarian. Thanks for joining in here. Have a pleasant week!

  4. Hi Bill – I first heard about Maya Angelou last week when another blogger wrote about her. I love stories like hers where she has the inner strength and faith to rise above her beginnings. My favourite quote is #19. I have lived that one several times.
    thanks for sharing.
    Lenie recently posted…Raised Bed Gardening, Organic Style – Any Size, Any Where.My Profile

    • Hi Lenie,
      Yes, her life is a powerful testament to the human spirit to overcome adversity. Maya’s thoughts on difficulty remind me of the first three words in Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled… Life is difficult. No kidding! 😉 But once we accept that fact, it becomes less so. You’re so welcome. I appreciate your thoughts and the kind share as well.


  5. Bill,

    I knew about Maya Angelou but really got to know her through your post. Wow! What a detailed post! I can say that you put a lot of thought and research about her life to put together this wonderful piece!

    Thank you for these awesome gems of wisdom from Maya’s repository of quotes.

    As you said, it’s now upto us to learn from them and live by. Thank you!

    Kumar Gauraw recently posted…When You Hate Network Marketers, Why Use Their Proven StrategiesMy Profile

    • Hi Kumar,
      I enjoyed doing the research for this post. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see a Maya Angelou museum.
      I think her contribution to this world deserves such an honor. She had so many pearls of wisdom that should be curated.
      We can only hope that future generations will understand the value of her legacy.

      Kind Regards,

  6. Thanks for this summary of Maya Angelou’s life. I like so many of her quotes, I am unable to select a favourite.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Arizona LighthousesMy Profile

    • Hi Donna,
      For me, one of the most powerful things Maya said is… “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Love is the focus of my energy and attention as I live by the four words BE LOVE TO OTHERS. Have a great week!


  7. Hi Bill,

    Your compassion and benevolence is shining through this post. This is a befitting tribute to a courageous genius…May her soul rest in peace. I always get immense inspiration from such life stories, which stand against all odds to fight this world.

    Thanks for such a succinct biography of one of the greatest writers. Her quotes on varied topics and life reveal her wisdom. Though I haven’t read any of her books but I have been impressed by her quotes. It is hard to pick one as the best. Each one of them convey so much. Thanks for compiling them for us! Have a nice day!
    Balroop Singh recently posted…Have you felt the Emotional and Therapeutic Appeal of Music?My Profile

    • Hi Balroop,
      I thank you for the kind words. Thank God for people like Maya Angelou who also have overcome life’s troubles to shine in their own right.
      I know her rich legacy of words will live on to inspire many people, and that is the beauty of her having been so prolific.
      All the best for a beautiful week!

  8. I was impressed whenAngelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. That is something you usually don’t see as there are many who have that ability making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. I thought from what I did see on TV that she an empowering personality

    • Hi Arleen,
      I was inspired by that poem as well, as well as Still I Rise. Maya was certainly an endearing soul, and I think future generations will benefit from the vast wisdom she left to this world, especially through her writing.

      Kind Regards,

  9. Her son really covered a lot of ground in this biography/eulogy. My favorite quote has always been “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone to be good to me?”.
    Tim recently posted…Beckoned Skyward by an EarthquakeMy Profile

    • Hi Tim,
      Yes, and to think her son Guy is 70 already! I went to his website and he recalls Maya Angelou hosting a writing club in Harlem and overhearing conversations from many who went on to become well-known writers. I like that quote you mentioned as well, as it speaks to self love being the prerequisite to truly loving others. Have an enjoyable week!

  10. Thanks for this summary of Maya Angelou’s life. . She was an amazing person who I have admired for a long time . Some of her quotes have been an inspiration to me .
    Mina Joshi recently posted…Zhoug and Cookery SchoolMy Profile

    • Welcome Mina,
      Like you, I have admired Maya Angelou and have enjoyed her writing for years. She will remain one of my favorite people to have blessed this world with her wisdom. Have a beautiful week!

  11. I too felt compelled to post about Maya Angelou today – in fact we both used the same photograph at the head of out page! She really was an amazing woman, and being able to write autobiography as literature is no small feat. But what has really stunned me since her death is just how many amazing quotes the woman came up with – how on earth can she do that. They’re not only truly inspiring, but without the piousness that often accompanies such quotes. The woman had such a sense of humor.

    • Greetings A.K.
      I’m glad you honored Maya Angelou as well. I shall look forward to reading your post. When you consider her age, she did a lot of living in those years. Her volume of works is not surprising to me, as she learned to tap into her expressive personality with her voice, her words, her presence. Did you know she did not utter a word for a period of 5 years? There’s a story behind that too. She certainly was an amazing woman.

      Kind Regards,

  12. It is very hard to put into words how I feel. She will be greatly missed is all that comes to mind. They are such simple words but very heart felt. Her legacy will certainly live on in her writing and memorable quotes.
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Clay Station Winery Pinot Grigio: #WineMy Profile

    • Hi Susan,
      Feelings are powerfully evocative, and for me, I feel sadness at the loss of such a great human being. If not for her great spirit in overcoming adversity, certainly for the creative giant she was. Maya Angelou was certainly an inspiration, and I think her name will hold that distinction for many years to come.

      Kind Regards,

  13. Hi Bill,
    I did not know the person who said that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!! Thank you for sharing more about Angelou. She was a phenomenal woman as she claimed:)

    • Hi Charmant,
      Blessings, my friend. Nice to see you back again. Yes, Maya was the first to make the statement you referred to, and many, many more pearls of wisdom.
      If you have opportunity, watch this story video “Still I Rise”…
      I’m sure you will be inspired.

      Kind Regards,

      • Hello Bill,
        I enjoyed the video.
        I just shared with my friend on my Facebook.
        She said, 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.
        Thank you, kindly,

        • Greetings Charmant,
          Thank you for sharing this tribute to Maya Angelou and for adding more of her wonderful words. Still I Rise is one of my favorites.


  14. I am grateful for this article. I will miss her although, of course, I never met her. What an inspiration! I can’t pick one of the quotes as a favorite. They are all gems. I wish I would leave 25 priceless quotations to the world. But then, “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…Serve The Ones You LikeMy Profile

    • Hi Beth,
      I’m glad you enjoy this tribute. Isn’t it interesting how someone we never met can affect us so profoundly?
      I admire Maya Angelou for the beauty of her spirit, strength of character. and the enduring legacy she left us all.
      She certainly is inspiring. I think the younger people of today will grow to know this too.

      Kind Regards,

  15. The world is indeed a better place for her having been here. And this was the most beautiful tribute! My favorite of her quotes has always been, ‘Courage is the most important of all virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ When tested, this is waht pops into my head.
    JACQUELINE GUM recently posted…Crepe…Where’s The Justice?My Profile

    • Hi Jacquie,
      Yes, indeed. If everyone had a Maya Angelou mindset to make the world a better place than they found it, there would be peace.
      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. The quote you referenced is also among my favorites. All of life requires courage, on so many levels.
      Have a great week!

  16. Hi Bill, I loved this piece. I feel a small connection to her, because she was a professor at my university, although I was never able to take one of her classes. I loved all these quotes, but expecially #8 and #14. Such great truth and poetry in such simple statements. Thanks for sharing.
    Meredith Wouters recently posted…7 Family Friendly Summer ProjectsMy Profile

    • Hi Meredith,
      I especially love Maya Angelou’s thought about trailing wisps of glory. It’s such a powerfully provocative thought, one that really drives home the point of our brief life here, and of things eternal. Have a wonderful week!


  17. Hi Bill: Nice tribute. I admit to not having been a follower of Maya. Not that I didn’t like her. I just somehow hadn’t been made aware of the specifics of her life. But I recently watched a show about her on Oprah’s Life Class and found it to be very inspirational. I had no idea she’d come from such a poor family. Thx for sharing all this info.

    • Hi Doreen,
      Thank you. I know that many people are simply busy living their lives and that we cannot pay attention to everything and everyone.
      The profundity of Maya Angelou’s writing alone is amazing. I stated in one comment that it wouldn’t surprise me if a museum were opened about her life, but as I think of it, I envision memorial libraries named in her honor as well. You’re very welcome. Enjoy your week!


  18. I don’t think there is anyone who has ever been quoted as often as Maya Angelou. Every quote is filled with meaning and wisdom. Here is another favorite of mine: ““I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Stand Out With a Video in Your LinkedIn ProfileMy Profile

    • Hi Jeannette,
      One thing is for sure, Maya Angelou will be quoted for years to come. Thank you for contributing another of her quotes. I had certainly heard it before, but it slipped my mind when putting this collection together. Just goes to show, we can’t think of everything.

      Kind Regards,

  19. Hi Bill,

    Really enjoyed reading this. I hate to say but I wasn’t overly familiar with Maya other than knowing she existed and was a great poet. Out of all the quotes you posted, #18 really spoke to me and should serve as an inspiration to everyone not speaking about their own stories. Though it would mean more competition for us all, I think we should all be out there telling the world because humanity has lots of things to say but too many distractions have gotten in the way of all that productivity.
    Carl recently posted…Trains Rule! No, Really!My Profile

  20. Hi Bill,
    Wow, your post is beautiful. You definitely put a lot of thought and time into this. I didn’t really know much about Maya Angelou, but now I do. She was quite the amazing woman and shows all of us that we can overcome anything if we put our minds to it. I love all the quotes, they are very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing and have an amazing day. Lisa
    Lisa Magoulas recently posted…Healthy Snack IdeasMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa,
      Yes, what is amazing to me is how much life she packed into those 86 years. I’m sure her legacy will endure for hundreds and hundreds more.
      Maya Angelou’s life is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit. Thanks for joining in on the conversation.

      All the best to you!

  21. There is so much about Maya Angelou that I love. I can’t really choose one quote over another. Her words are timeless and I know her legacy will live on for many years. Thank you for sharing this with our group. Sharing with my tribe.
    Laurie Hurley recently posted…5 Social Media Etiquette Tips – Emily Post Would Approve!My Profile

    • Hi Laurie,
      I agree with you. Some people may prefer one quote over another, but I think all of her words make so much sense.
      Thank you very much for sharing. Maybe a few more people will discover a rare gem in the life of Maya Angelou.
      Have a nice week!

  22. I was in tenth grade when our class was assigned to read I Know Why a Caged Bird Sing. She’s inspiring because she never let any circumstance hold her back. I could listen to her read poetry for days and days and days…
    Jeri recently posted…#CreativeWriting: Life in a BagMy Profile

    • Hi Jeri,
      When we were in school, we did not read any of Maya Angelou’s works. I sure hope they make more time in classes for young people of otday to benefit from her wisdom. Like you, I love her poetry, as well as her powerful prose.

      Kind Regards,

  23. Hi William; Thanks for sharing this special lady with us. I learned a lot here that wasn’t in the news reports. i notice that several of the quotes mention that your reaction to or viewpoint of what happens is more important than the event itself. I also love some of the ways she describes love. thanks again, max
    maxwell ivey recently posted…Six steps to a safe bounce house partyMy Profile

    • Hi Max,
      I think it’s true in most of life. We make a hell from our perceptions and our assumptions… or we can make a heaven from uplifting thoughts and
      make molehills out of mountains. It all lies within the power of choice. I enjoy all love quotes, including Maya’s.

      All the best to you!

  24. William, I am a part of the Bloggers Helping Bloggers group on LinkedIn, and I have seen your face on several blogs I regularly comment on. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself. Yes, my name is Lorraine.

    I’m touched by this beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou. Until recently, I am ashamed to admit, I had only heard of her in passing. Today I learned so much about this woman, and can see why she was admired so much. This is the type of legacy I want to leave behind when I die.

    I’m writing my memoirs, too. I’m also just getting started with publishing. I’ll have a book of short stories coming out soon.

    In reading about Maya Angelou, I was surprised to hear she was involved with drugs and prostitution. I was, too. I was also raped. Maya was African-American, and faced discrimination. I am overweight and have a son who is Spanish. I’ve faced discrimination, too.

    I can see several parallels between my life and that of Maya Angelou’s. While I am not saying I am as great as she (because I’m not, yet), I am saying that I someday hope to be.

    This is a beautiful tribute to her life, and her gift legacy.

    Nicely done.

    In response to your question about which quotes spoke to me, I’d have to say #4 and #16, although many more are awesome!

    “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” – This is great advice. I wish I had heard it years ago. I’m glad I heard it now.
    Lorraine Reguly recently posted…A Sneak Peek: Which Ebook Cover Is the Best?My Profile

    • Welcome Lorraine,
      Thank you for introducing yourself and for sharing your life experiences with us. I really appreciate your candor. It has been my experience that there is strength in vulnerability; not the weakness some people mistake it for. I think in the grand scheme of things, all our lives run along parallels, and are finely woven together, if we but see this. I’m glad that you identified with Maya’s life and legacy. Thank you kindly for contributing.

      Best Regards,

  25. Hi Bill,

    It was awesome quotes from Maya Angelou. I’ve heard some of them though. However, this is the first time I know about Maya Angelou closer. And it’s all thanks for this post 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this post with us, Bill.
    Nice share, indeed!

    Nanda Rahmanius recently posted…7 Tips Using LinkedIn To Increase Your Blog TrafficMy Profile

    • Hi Nanda,
      Glad you learned more about this wonderful woman. I’m sure the spirit of her work and teachings will live on for many generations.
      That’s the fine art of leaving a legacy. I appreciate you add your thoughts here. Thanks so much!

      Kind Regards,

  26. Bill,

    I never imagined Maya had such a plethora of fine quotes: I particularly like: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”. It resonates for many personal reasons and I’ll be remembering it in the days to come.

    Maya lived a life that proved one thing: man can rise above all challenges and embrace his/her ultimate dream…for me, that’s the most important message from her.

    Till we meet to part no more, I wish her perfect rest.

    Akaahan Terungwa recently posted…HOW TO MAKE MONEY BLOGGINGMy Profile

    • Greetings Terungwa,
      My apologies for the late reply. I took the week off to honor personal commitments and catch up on some projects.
      I am glad you resonate with this tribute to such a marvelous woman. I enjoy all of her quotes, and was glad to have a few more provided to me in the comments. I love how you expressed yourself in the last line. Very nice! Thanks for adding value with your comments. I appreciate you!

      Kind Regards,

  27. […] As I was looking back through pictures from previous years’ July 4th celebrations, I saw this one, and it reminded me of this wonderful quote that I recently discovered through my friend Bill Butler’s Maya Angelou Tribute. […]

  28. Wow ! I loved your post . Maya Angelou was a great human being, and she will be remembered and cherished in all our hearts ! Great job Bill .. Best wishes from Biljana
    Biljana recently posted…Family CampingMy Profile

    • Welcome Biljana,
      Yes, Maya Angelou was very inspiring, and I feel confident that her rich legacy will be influencing many generations to come.
      Thank you very much for the kind words. 🙂

      All the best!

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