(1928-2014) “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”, and that’s exactly how Maya Angelou changed people’s lives.
Angelou’s own life was multi-faceted: she was a civil rights activist, author, poet, actress, director, playwright and songwriter. A child of the depression, she grew up in the segregated south, survived a childhood rape by her mother's boyfriend, who was then murdered by her uncles. Angelou felt responsible and stopped speaking for five years. She used these and other private experiences for her literary oeuvre. Bill Clinton, at whose 1993 inauguration Angelou read her poem On the Pulse of Morning, said “She was without a voice for five years and then she developed the greatest voice on the planet.”
In 2010, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, whose wife Michelle in a moving obituary called her “one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known”. She went on thanking Angelou for empowering young black women like herself with her clever, sassy remarks like “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.”
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