Poet, activist (1928 – 2014) Maya Angelou rose to greatness despite facing some of life’s cruelest hardships
At 8 years old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After being convicted, Angelou’s abuser was found beaten to death. The once garrulous girl from Stamps, Arkansas, silenced herself for nearly five years, believing that her voice had killed the man because she identified him to her family. Instead, she memorized poetry during her silence, rearranging cadences and reciting Shakespearean sonnets in her head. With the help of a teacher, Angelou was able to speak again. She used literature to recover from trauma.
In the late 1950’s Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild. With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Published in 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings received international acclaim made the bestseller list. The book was also banned in many schools during that time as Maya Angelou’s honesty about having been sexually abused opened a subject matter that had long been taboo in the culture. Later, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would become a course adoption at college campuses around the world. With more than 30 bestselling titles, Maya Angelou has written 36 books. Her books center on themes including racism, identity, family and travel.
In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made approximately 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Maya Angelou becomes 1st Black woman featured on US quarters
The legendary author and poet, who died in 2014, is the first featured in a series of new quarters issued by the U.S. Mint.
The United States Mint recently began shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou, the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program.
Angelou, an American author, poet and civil rights activist, rose to prominence with the publication of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. Angelou, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama.
The quarter design depicts Angelou with outstretched arms. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry.
The mint’s program will issue 20 quarters over the next four years honoring women and their achievements in shaping the nation’s history.