Famous Maya Angelou Quotations

Maya Angelou quotations slide right past the brain and go right to the heart. Those words paraphrase Angelou's own opinion of her work. Angelou's quotes are honest, straightforward and piercing. She commands respect because she doesn't pull any punches. She inspires by speaking the truth plainly, reminding us that we have the strength to rise above the challenges that life puts before us.

A Difficult Life
Mary Angelou had a rough childhood. She was raped at age eight and delivered her first child at age sixteen as an unwed mother. Much of her childhood was spent moving from home to home, living with different relatives. As a young woman, she worked as a postitute and madam to provide for her child. Angelou overcame these obstacles and many more to become a recognized writer, poet, speaker and conductor, partly through the strength she had within, and partly through the encouragement of people around her who recognized her formidable talent.

Angelou seeks to inspire African American women to overcome stereotypes and disadvantages. She expressed her admiration for women who take on challenges and prevail when she said the following:

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.

Angelou speaks a great deal about achieving. She likes to speak plainly about how much work, perseverance and determination are necessary for disadvantaged people to succeed. She reminds those who are impatient to remember the following:

All great achievements require time.

She also cautions people to not expect one achievement to fulfill them completely:

Achievement brings its own anticlimax.

Angelou takes an assertive position when it comes to her philosophy for living. She encourages women to forge on, pursuing dreams and making change happen in their lives. One of her famous quotes says, "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."

Facing Racial Issues
Angelou is not afraid to speak out about racial disparity. She honestly addresses her experiences with racism and how she viewed the world as she took on the challenges before her:

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.

Angelou addresses America's history of slavery bravely. She speaks optimistically, with one eye still watching the past as she paves the way for the future with words like the following:

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Angelou encourages African-American women to take negative experiences and parlay them into positive momentum. For example, consider her advice on handling negative situations that provoke anger:

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

Angelou challenges women to value and protect courage, lauding it:

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

As for the quote on her writing, here it is as Angelou originially said it:

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

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Among the famous poems by Maya Angelou are works ranging from a tribute to Michael Jackson to the first poem read by an African-American woman at a presidential inauguration.

Learn how events in the Maya Angelou timeline influenced her work, and discover inspirational Maya Angelou quotations, love poems by Maya Angelou and famous poems by Maya Angelou. 

Learn how events in the Maya Angelou timeline influenced her work, and discover inspirational Maya Angelou quotations, love poems by Maya Angelou and famous poems by Maya Angelou. 

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