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Remembering Maya Angelou

"Maya Angelou." Photo credit: www.geteverwise.com / Foter / CC BY-SA

“Maya Angelou.” Photo credit: www.geteverwise.com / Foter / CC BY-SA

Today marks exactly one year since we lost Maya Angelou on May 28, 2014. Her literary and educational contributions go beyond books and wisdom. She was an activist, actress, composer, dancer, director, editor, essayist, playwright, poet, singer, storyteller and writer. In the 86 years she spent on Earth sharing her art, voice and many gifts, it is her strength and poise we will remember most. To honor the full life she led, I thought it would be befitting to list 10 facts you may not know about Maya Angelou and reflect on the woman who published more than just poetry. She imprinted our hearts with empathy and adoration so that we always seek to understand instead of to judge.

1. She Was a Southern Soul

Maya Angelou loved country music.

2. Her Real Name Was Not Maya Angelou

She was born Marguerite Annie Johnson.

3. She Reached an Educational Milestone

Maya Angelou received over 30 honorary doctorates from universities spanning the world during her life, but never attended college.

4. She Was Very Multi-Talented

Aside from being a poet, she was a calypso singer and dancer. She also immersed herself in other artistic areas including acting, directing, editing, and playwriting.

5. Her Birthday Held a Unique Significance

April 4, 1928 was Maya Angelou’s birthday and April 4, 1968 was the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. She didn’t celebrate her own birthday for years after his death because of the shared date.

6. She Was Multilingual

She mastered French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Fanti and English of course.

7. She Earned Presidential Praise

In 1993, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration and was the first black female poet to do so.

8. She Loved Oprah

Though Maya Angelou had one son, she thought of Oprah Winfrey as the daughter she never had.

9. You Can Say She’s a Space Poet

NASA sent Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” into space aboard the Orion spacecraft in December 2014.

10. She Was a Powerful Advocate

Maya Angelou was a strong supporter of civil rights and marriage equality.