QUOTATIONS OF MAYA ANGELOU (4 APRIL 1928 – 28 MAY 2014)

QUOTATIONS OF MAYA ANGELOU (4 APRIL 1928 - 28 MAY 2014)

”There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women. It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. interview broadcast, Nov. 21, 1973. “A Conversation with Maya Angelou,” Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989).

 

”The white American man makes the white American woman maybe not superfluous but just a little kind of decoration. Not really important to turning around the wheels of the state. Well the black American woman has never been able to feel that way. No black American man at any time in our history in the United States has been able to feel that he didn’t need that black woman right against him, shoulder to shoulder—in that cotton field, on the auction block, in the ghetto, wherever.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. interview, Nov. 21, 1973. “A Conversation with Maya Angelou,” Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989).

 

”Strictly speaking, one cannot legislate love, but what one can do is legislate fairness and justice. If legislation does not prohibit our living side by side, sooner or later your child will fall on the pavement and I’ll be the one to pick her up. Or one of my children will not be able to get into the house and you’ll have to say, “Stop here until your mom comes here.” Legislation affords us the chance to see if we might love each other.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American author and performer. As quoted in I Dream a World, by Brian Lanker (1989).

 

”…there is a difference between being convinced and being stubborn. I’m not certain what the difference is, but I do know that if you butt your head against a stone wall long enough, at some point you realize the wall is stone and that your head is flesh and blood.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author and performer. As quoted in Reel Women, part 4, by Ally Acker (1991). Said in 1979, on giving up her attempt to be named director of the television version of the first volume of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

 

”…talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author and performer. Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 1, by Claudia Tate (1983).

 

”The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Caged Bird, Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? (1983).

 

”We had won. Pimps got out of their polished cars and walked the streets of San Francisco only a little uneasy at the unusual exercise. Gamblers, ignoring their sensitive fingers, shook hands with shoeshine boys…. Beauticians spoke to the shipyard workers, who in turn spoke to the easy ladies…. I thought if war did not include killing, I’d like to see one every year. Something like a festival.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, prologue (1974).

 

”I thought if war did not include killing, I’d like to see one every year.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American author and performer. Gather Together in My Name, ch. 1 (1974). On the sense of “festival” in the San Francisco African American community that followed the announcement of victory in World War II.

 

”Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, ch. 6 (1974).

 

”Stories of law violations are weighed on a different set of scales in the Black mind than in the white. Petty crimes embarrass the community and many people wistfully wonder why Negroes don’t rob more banks, embezzle more funds and employ graft in the unions…. This … appeals particularly to one who is unable to compete legally with his fellow citizens.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch.

 

”The needs of a society determine its ethics, and in the Black American ghettos the hero is that man who is offered only the crumbs from his country’s table but by ingenuity and courage is able to take for himself a Lucullan feast. Hence the janitor who lives in one room but sports a robin’s-egg-blue Cadillac is not laughed at but admired, and the domestic who buys forty-dollar shoes is not criticized but is appreciated. We know that they have put to use their full mental and physical powers. Each single gain feeds into the gains of the body collective.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 29 (1970).

 

”… the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 18 (1970).

 

”The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 29 (1969).

 

”My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 19 (1970). Remembering a world heavyweight championship fight of African American boxer Joe Louis (1914-1981), the defending champion, against Primo Carnera (1906-1967), a white Italian challenger and former heavyweight champion. Angelou’s grandmother ran a store in the small, strictly segregated, brutally racist town of Stamps, Arkansas. Her family and neighbors crowded the store to listen to the fight on radio. At this point, Carnera had Louis on the ropes and was pummelling him. But Louis would fight back and prevail. Louis, who had won the championship in 1937 by defeating James J. Braddock, held it until his first retirement in 1949; he had defended the title successfully twenty-five times, scoring twenty-one knockouts. He returned to fighting in 1950 and retired permanently the following year, ironically after being knocked out by a white Italian-American: Rocky Marciano (1924-1969). It was only his third defeat in seventy-one professional fights.

 

”Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 4 (1969).

 

”Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 17 (1969).

 

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

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 31 (1969).

 

”Then the question began to live under my blankets: How did lesbianism begin? What were the symptoms? The public library gave information on the finished lesbian—and that woefully sketchy—but on the growth of a lesbian, there was nothing. I did discover that the difference between hermaphrodites and lesbians was that hermaphrodites were “born that way.” It was impossible to determine whether lesbians budded gradually, or burst into being with a suddenness that dismayed them as much as it repelled society.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, vol. 1, ch. 35 (1969).

 

”People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 8 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s.

 

”In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really, absolutely know what whites looked like.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 4 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s.

 

‘During those years in Stamps, I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare. He was my first white love…. it was Shakespeare who said, “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.” It was a state of mind with which I found myself most familiar. I pacified myself about his whiteness by saying that after all he had been dead so long it couldn’t matter to anyone any more.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 2 (1970). Remembering her childhood in strictly segregated, harshly racist Stamps, Arkansas, during the 1930s. Shakespeare had, of course, “been dead” for more than three centuries: since 1616. “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes” is the first line of sonnet no. 29.

 

”This might be the end of the world. If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than apes. True that we were stupid and ugly and lazy and dirty and, unlucky and worst of all, that God Himself hated us and ordained us to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, forever and ever, world without end.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), African American poet, autobiographer, and performer. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 19 (1970). Remembering the significance to African American Southerners of a world heavyweight championship bout fought by African American boxer Joe Louis (1914-1981), the defending champion, against Primo Carnera (1906-1967), a white Italian challenger and former heavyweight champion. Angelou’s grandmother ran a store in the small, strictly segregated, brutally racist town of Stamps, Arkansas. Her family and neighbors crowded the store to listen to the fight on radio. As it turned out, Louis won this and every one of his other twenty-four title defenses until his first retirement in 1949.

 

”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 (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 34 (1969).

 

”All of childhood’s unanswered questions must finally be passed back to the town and answered there. Heroes and bogey men, values and dislikes, are first encountered and labeled in that early environment. In later years they change faces, places and maybe races, tactics, intensities and goals, but beneath those penetrable masks they wear forever the stocking-capped faces of childhood.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 4 (1969). Said of one’s hometown.

 

”I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, vol. 1, ch. 18 (1969).

 

”Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. interview in Black Scholar (Jan.-Feb. 1977). Defining work.

 

”There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Interview in Black Scholar (New York, January-February 1977).

 

”While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). “Involvement in Black and White,” interview, Oregonian (Portland, February 17, 1971). Angelou lived and worked in Ghana and Egypt, 1962-1966.

 

”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 (b. 1928), U.S. author. originally published in Girl About Town (Oct. 13, 1986). Kicking Ass (interview), Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989).

 

”The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). “Listening to Maya Angelou,” California Living (May 14, 1975).

 

”Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, “I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.””

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). “Maya Angelou: An Interview,” (first published Oct. 1974).

 

”We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Address, March 1990, Centenary College of Louisiana. New York Times (March 11, 1990).

 

”Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise (1978).
.

”For Africa to me … is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Quoted in New York Times (April 16, 1972).

 

”If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning “Good morning” at total strangers.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, vol. 3, ch. 5 (1976). Quoting her mother’s advice.

 

”A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications…. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, vol. 3, ch. 5 (1976).

 

”As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author, poet. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, vol. 3, ch. 1 (1976).
.

”Oh, the holiness of always being the injured party. The historically oppressed can find not only sanctity but safety in the state of victimization. When access to a better life has been denied often enough, and successfully enough, one can use the rejection as an excuse to cease all efforts. After all, one reckons, “they” don’t want me, “they” accept their own mediocrity and refuse my best, “they” don’t deserve me.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, vol. 3, ch. 9 (1976).

 

”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.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Still I Rise, And Still I Rise (1978).

 

”Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. African American poet, author, educator. “Still I Rise,” in Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, p. 9, Random House (1994).

 

”Life loves the liver of it.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. (originally published Jan.-Feb. 1977). The Black Scholar Interviews Maya Angelou, Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989).

 

”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 (b. 1928), U.S. author. “When I Think About Myself,” Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971).

 

”I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.”
Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. interview; repr. In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989). “Work in Progress,” (first published June 1973).
I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.
Maya Angelou, 1999

I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.
Maya Angelou, 1984

Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me. It’s like a swimmer in the [English] Channel: you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the other shore, and you put your foot on the ground—Aaaahhhh!
Maya Angelou, 1989

 

QUOTATIONS OF MAYA ANGELOU (4 APRIL 1928 - 28 MAY 2014)

MAYA ANGELOU…the caged bird is free!…

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