Black History Month: February 2014
To recall and celebrate the positive contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week beginning on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.
Poet, author, dancer, actress, singer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has released several books, including her 1969 memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The book made history as the first nonfiction best seller by an African-American woman. In 1971, Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize nominated poetry collection "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die". She later wrote one of her most famous works "On the Pulse of the Morning", which she recited at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Angelou has received several honors throughout her career including three Grammy Awards for her spoken word recordings, two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary works.
- Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928.
- In the 1950's, Angelou performed with choreographer Alvin Ailey as part of the act Al & Rita.
- She released her first album Miss Calypso in 1957.
- She toured with Porgy And Bess and later performed on Broadway.
- Through her friend James Baldwin, became active in the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin Luther King died on her birthday and for several years after his death, Maya wouldn't celebrate her birthday.
- In 1960, Angelou moved with her son to Egypt and later to Ghana, where she worked on local newspapers. There she met Malcolm X and eventually moved back to the U.S. to work with him, but he was assassinated shortly thereafter.
- Angelou appeared in Roots.
- In 1981, Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
- Angelou was the second poet in U.S. history to write and recite and original work at a Presidential inauguration.
- Angelou is the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced, for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia.
- In 1998, she directed the film Down In The Delta, and late appeared in Tyler Perry's 2006 film Madea's Family Reunion.
- Angelou was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
- Angelou is good friends with Oprah Winfrey and considers her the daughter she's always wanted.
- On life: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a b*tch. You've got to go out and kick a**."
- On love: "Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style."
- On change: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
- On her love life: "I think men are as crazy as they were, and women as crazy as they were.. I've never had a dislike for men. I've been badly mistreated by some. But I've been loved greatly by some. I married a lot of them."
- On Michelle Obama: "Philosophers tell us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mrs. Obama is as if it doesn't touch her. She hasn't tried to become anybody else's idea of First Lady. She has remained herself, with her grace, her gentleness, and her sense of humor. That she would dare to wear clothes off the rack, or go out and garden, or have a grandmother in the White House - she knows how to be a public figure without being separate from her family."
- On George Zimmerman's acquittal: "A number of people think that only blacks were hurt, that African Americans were hurt by this decision, but that is not true. All you have to do is look at the protesters - they are white and black, Spanish-speaking and Asian. What is really injured - bruised if you will - is the psyche of our national population. We are all harmed. We are all belittled, and we give to the rest of the world more ammunition to sneer at us. It really makes me see how far we have to go, that one man armed with a gun can actually profile a young man because he is black and end up shooting him dead. It is so painful."