Dr. Maya Angelou, the great voice of American letters and human rights, who grew up in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas, is dead at age 86. She died at her home in North Carolina where she was teaching at Wake Forest University.
Maya Angelou’s writing and voice imprinted on me at an early age. My Mom and Grandmother are from Magnolia, Arkansas, 18 miles east of Stamps on Rt. 82. She wrote about her experiences in “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”
In 1982, she traveled with Bill Moyers back to Stamps – the first time she’d returned since leaving as a teenager, for a piece titled “The Black Side of the Tracks” (see video clip above).
On Jan. 20, 1993, she returned American poetry to its place in democracy when she was asked to be the poet for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Her reading of On The Pulse of Morning, written for the occasion, was reminiscent of Robert Frost’s reading of The Gift Outright at Kennedy’s inauguration–but her poem and voice carried the voice of the ancestors and the prophets. It has become a classic of American literature.