Maya Angelou: the Civil Rights Activist

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Maya Angelou was considered very magnificent in every career she had. From a dancer and an actress to a journalist and a civil rights activist, she represented blacks and their exigency for equality through her writing and many skills. Maya Angelou’s performance next to significant figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, molded a principled and better path for everyone in society today.

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The speaking of the Tree (Nichols 5).

They hear, they all hear

the Teacher.

the privileged, the homeless,

the Gay, the Straight, the


The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,

The Catholic, the

Muslim, the French, the Greek,

the African and the Native American, the Sioux,

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,

The singing River and the wise Rock.


There is a true yearning to respond to Angelou touched many people, including important, political figures. For example, she worked on two presidential committees: for Gerald in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977 (Parker 1). Ergo, she had a very high status. Nevertheless, no matter what crowd Angelou found herself among, she continued to uplift minorities. When she spoke at the inauguration of Bill Clinton, she narrated,

Additionally, after King’s death, Angelou returned to writing. In 1969, she published her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It became a best-seller and launched Angelou into prominence (5 Crowning Achievements of Maya Angelou 1). Through her poems and autobiographies, she turned attention to the struggle of the blacks’ lives. Her writing is often applauded more for its representation of black beauty and demand of racial equality than for its poetic virtue. Although Angelou was a spokesperson for the blacks, her literature works demanded social justice for all and encouraged everyone of all backgrounds to do the same. For example, Angelou’s poetry was filled with a protest of the times. In fact, she used her writing to help protest the Vietnam war. It is believed she raised the moral expectation for many in the US (Parker 1).

Upon her return to America, Maya Angelou made an ascendancy of influence over the civil rights community. Martin Luther King, Jr., requested Angelou to tour the country with him to promote civil rights. Before she could, King was assassinated on Angelou’s fortieth birthday. On that day forward, Maya stopped celebrating her birthday. She sent flowers to Coretta Scott King every year, instead (Parker 4).

Maya Angelou fought for equality from America to Africa. Shortly after Cabaret for Freedom, Angelou married a South African freedom fighter and resigned from SCLC (Nichols 4). Her marriage ended rather quickly but she remained in Africa with her son. During this time in Africa, Angelou met two prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement history. In 1962, she met Nelson Mandela. He made a very eloquent impact on her interest in combatting for equality. Angelou commented, I admire his endurance of racism and imprisonment (Parker 3-4). Two years later, Angelou met Malcolm X in Ghana. She would soon join him in planning for an Organization of Afro-American Unity (Parker 2). No matter where Angelou traveled, she continued to support the Civil Rights Movement.


Following her Porgy and Bess tour, Angelou moved to New York and became friends with significant Harlem Renaissance figures. It was here, she developed an inclination to social activism. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild and took her place amongst young black writers linked with the Civil Rights Movement. Working alongside writers, such as James Baldwin and Paule Marshall, her writing skills flourished. In addition to her New York affairs, she heard one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches at a church in Harlem. Swayed by his words, she helped organize a historic, fund-raising cabaret for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Nichols 3). Angelou raised funds for King’s Civil Rights Movement by staging Cabaret for Freedom (Maya Angelou Biography-Academy). The event was a momentous success and accrued plenty of funds.

Marguerite Johnson was born April 4th, 1928. Her brother, Bailey, gave her the nickname Maya and she made it her professional name later (5 Crowning Achievements of Maya Angelou 1). At the age of three, she and Bailey were sent to live with their grandmother in Arkansas due to her parents’ divorce. Later, when she was eight years old, she went to stay with her mother. While she stayed with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend cuddled her and raped her. She refused to speak for five years after he was found beaten to death because of her deposition. During this time, she returned to her Arkansas only to travel back to her mothers’. At the age of seventeen, she fell pregnant and gave birth to her first and only child, Clyde. From her son’s birth, Angelou’s life turned around. She went from working in a club to making a big break in her career. After auditioning for Porgy and Bess, Angelou toured the world (This Day in Our History 2).


During the Civil Rights movement, many African American writers wrote analyses of society, encompassing racial inequality and hardships. Maya Angelou was among those writers that became very influential in their literary works. As a feminist icon and civil rights activist, the powerful existence of her words still lingers today in our society.


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Maya Angelou: The Civil Rights Activist. (2019, Jun 27). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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