The works of Maya Angelou encompass autobiography, plays, poetic, and television producer. She also had an active directing, acting, and speaking career. She is best known for her books, including her series of seven autobiographies, starting with the critically acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
Angelou's autobiographies are distinct in style and narration, and "stretch over time and place", from Arkansas to Africa and back to the US. They take place from the beginnings of World War II to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Angelou wrote collections of essays, including Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993) and Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997), which writer Hilton Als called her "wisdom books" and "homilies strung together with autobiographical texts". Angelou used the same editor throughout her writing career, Robert Loomis, an executive editor at Random House, until he retired in 2011. Angelou said regarding Loomis: "We have a relationship that's kind of famous among publishers."
She was one of the most honored writers of her generation, earning an extended list of honors and awards, as well as more than 30 honorary degrees. She was a prolific writer of poetry; her volume Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and she was chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" during his inauguration in 1993.
Angelou's successful acting career included roles in numerous plays, films, and television programs, such as in the television mini-series Roots in 1977. Her screenplay Georgia, Georgia (1972) was the first original script by a black woman to be produced. and she was the first African-American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998. Since the 1990s, Angelou participated in the lecture circuit, which she continued into her eighties.
Unless otherwise stated, the items in this list are from Gillespie et al, pp. 186–191.
- Life Doesn't Frighten Me (1998). New York: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang. ISBN 1-55670-288-4
- My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (1994). New York: Knopf Books. ISBN 0-517-59667-9
- Kofi and His Magic (1996). New York: Knopf Books. ISBN 0-517-59667-9
- Maya's World series (2004). New York: Random House:
- Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), with Godfrey Cambridge, 1960
- The Least of These, 1966
- The Best of These (drama), 1966
- Gettin' up Stayed on My Mind, 1967
- Sophocles, Ajax (adaptation), 1974
- And Still I Rise (writer/director), 1976
- Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (director), 1978
Film and television
- Blacks, Blues, Black! (writer, producer and host – ten one-hour programs, National Education Television), 1968
- Georgia, Georgia (writer for script and musical score), Sweden, 1972
- All Day Long (writer/director), 1974
- PBS documentaries (1975):
- Who Cares About Kids & Kindred Spirits (KERA-TV, Dallas, Texas)
- Maya Angelou: Rainbow in the Clouds (WTVS-TV, Detroit, Michigan)
- To the Contrary (Maryland Public Television)
- Tapestry and Circles
- Assignment America (six one-half hour programs), 1975
- Part One: The Legacy; Part Two: The Inheritors (writer and host), 1976
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (writer for script and musical score), 1979
- Sister, Sister (writer), 20th Century Fox Television, 1982
- Brewster Place (writer), ABC, 1990
- Down in the Delta (director), Miramax Films, 1998
- The Black Candle (poetry, narration), Starz, 2012
Plays and films acted in (partial list)
- Porgy and Bess, 1954–1955
- Calypso, 1957
- The Blacks, 1960
- Mother Courage, 1964
- Look Away, 1973
- Roots, ABC, 1977
- Runaway, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, 1993
- Poetic Justice, 1993
- Touched by an Angel ("Reunion"), CBS, 1995
- How to Make an American Quilt, Universal Pictures, 1995
- Madea's Family Reunion, Tyler Perry Studios, 2006
- The Poetry of Maya Angelou, GWP Records, 1969
- Women in Business, 1981
- On the Pulse of Morning, Random House Audio, 1993
- A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Random House Audio, 2002
- ^McPherson, Dolly A. (1990). Order Out of Chaos: The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8204-1139-6.
- ^ abLupton, Mary Jane (1998). Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-313-30325-8.
- ^Als, Hilton (2002-08-05). "Songbird: Maya Angelou takes another look at herself". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- ^Italie, Hillel (2011-05-06). "Robert Loomis, editor of Styron, Angelou, retires". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- ^Tate, Claudia (1999). "Maya Angelou: An Interview". In Joanne M. Braxton. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook. New York: Oxford Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-19-511606-2.
- ^Moore, Lucinda (2003-04-01). "A Conversation with Maya Angelou at 75". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- ^Gillespie et al, p. 103
- ^ abManegold, Catherine S. (1993-01-20). "An Afternoon with Maya Angelou; A Wordsmith at Her Inaugural Anvil". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- ^ abBrown, Avonie (1997-01-04). "Maya Angelou: The Phenomenal Woman Rises Again". New York Amsterdam News. 88 (1). p. 2.
- ^"Maya Angelou: A Brief Biography". African Overseas Union. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- ^Gillespie et al, p. 144
- ^Younge, Gary (2002-05-25). "No surrender". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- ^Gillespie et al, p. 9
- ^Maya Angelou (2010). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 030747772X. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- ^Maya Angelou (2012). The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou (illustrated ed.). Random House Publishing Group. p. 175. ISBN 030743205X. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- ^Moyer, Homer E. (2003). The R.A.T. Real-World Aptitude Test: Preparing Yourself for Leaving Home. Sterling, Virginia: Capital Books. p. 297. ISBN 1-931868-42-5.
- ^A poem from this collection, "My Life Has Turned to Blue", was made into the title track of Nancy Wilson's album, Turned to Blue, in 2006.
- ^ abWaldron, Clarence (2006-12-25). "Maya Angelou: On Christmas, Dave Chappelle and What Inspires Her". Jet (110). p. 29. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
- ^Angelou, Maya. "On the Pulse of Morning". Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2007.
- ^Long, Richard (November 2005). "Maya Angelou". Smithsonian. 36 (8). p. 84.
- ^Vena, Jocelyn (2009-07-07). "Maya Angelou's Poem about Michael Jackson: 'We Had Him'". MTV.com. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- ^Eby, Margaret (12 December 2013). "Maya Angelou pens poem for Nelson Mandela: 'His Day is Done'".New York Daily News. Retrieved 16 February 2014
- ^Wolf, Matt (March 12, 2014). "The National Theatre's Global Flair". The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
- ^ abcLetkemann, Jessica (28 May 2014). "Maya Angelou's Life in Music: Ashford & Simpson Collab, Calypso Album & More". Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- ^ abMaughan, Shannon (2003-03-03). "Grammy Gold". Publishers Weekly. 250 (9). p. 38.
- ^Waggoner, Martha (2006-09-13). "Maya Angelou to Host Show on XM Radio". Fox News. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
- Gillespie, Marcia Ann, Rosa Johnson Butler, and Richard A. Long. (2008). Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-385-51108-7
Maya Angelou is the author of thirty best-selling books. In a famous autobiography she wrote a novel titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In this story she composes a chapter remembering her childhood called “Champion of the World.” This chapter is a memoir during the late 1930’s when Joe Louis became an African American hero by defending his heavyweight title against a white contender in a boxing match. Throughout “Champion of the World” Maya Angelou uses language, rhythm, and actions of character to create suspense, tension, and anticipation for the reader.
First, Maya Angelou implies a strong rhythm to the story. The reader can easily recognize when suspense is occurring because the sentences become shorter. For example, when Angelou and her family thought the Joe Louis was about to lose the sentences were about three to four words long. “My race groaned. It was our people falling.” “We didn’t breathe. We didn’t hope. We waited.” The choppiness of these sentences grew very dramatic. Though, as things were getting better for the African American boxer, the sentences grew longer; “There were a few sounds from the audience, but they seemed to be holding themselves in against tremendous pressure.” When the sentences lengthened, the suspense diminished. Despite the volume of sentences throughout the story, Maya Angelou also uses ellipses to form rhythm. Ellipses were used a few times in the story, but it is greatly emphasized at the end of the match. “Here’s the referee. He’s counting. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Is the contender trying to get up again?” “Let’s get the microphone over to the referee… Here he is. He’s got the Brown Bomber’s hand, he’s holding it up… Here he is…” “The winnah, and still heavyweight champeen of the world… Joe Louis.” All of these sentences are building up tension to keep reading because the reader can feel the anticipation of the ending.
Furthermore, the language in this piece is unusual. The author uses the words “rape, whip, lynching, clutched, maimed and penetrate” as if the story was about a rape. Ultimately, using these words helped illustrate the meaning of winning this battle and defeating Joe Louis’s opponent with no mercy. It was not only for the boxer but for the people too. Maya Angelou introduces racial comments as well. “White boy” and “cracker” were used in the story. This language helped correlate with the black versus white aspect. In this time period, blacks and whites were very segregated. The reader can easily discover the unequal disparity between blacks and whites through the language, especially when Joe Louis wins and all his African American fans felt just as equal in the world as white people. “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.” Winning this battle was not just for the title when it came to Joe Louis and his black community; it was for their pride.
Lastly, the author uses the setting and the actions of the characters to recognize the importance of the fight in “Champion of the World.” They watched the match in Maya Angelou’s Uncle Willie’s store. Angelou gives a clear image in the reader’s head of how crowded the story was of family and friends. The radio was turned up to the last notch so that the children sitting on the porch outside could hear. The women sat on chairs, stools, and wooden boxes, men had to lean on shelves or on each other, while babies were perched up on every lap possible. Maya Angelou stresses the family rule of quietness during the fight. No one was aloud to use the cash register to ring up customers because it was simply too noisy and it might “shake up the atmosphere.” So when the unusual customer dragged along Maya or her brother would lay the coins down on the cash register instead.