Life Struggles Of Maya Angelou And How They Reflected On The Prominent Themes In Her Works

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Known as a novelist and poet, Maya Angelou, orignally named Marguerite Johnson, was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was was numerous things such as an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, producer, director, performer, dancer, singer, and activist.

Due to the influence of the Harlem Renaissance, Maya Angelou’s writing and evolution as a person flourished. She published seven autobiographies, five poetry books, three books filled with essays, and is credited for a list of plays, movies, and television shows over a span of 50 years. She received numerous awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. With having such a hard life, to go on to write poetry and novels with such strong themes, and to be being awarded for such written works, Maya Angelou is an accomplished African American author.

In her early years, Maya Angelou experienced a tough life for a child. Just at three years old, her parents seperated in which her and her brother had to move in with their grandmother in racially segregated Stamps, Arkansas (Horsley 2). Unfortunately, she was not able to have a substantial home and furthermore had to move to a town where the whites degraded the blacks. Not long after, four years later, she went to go live back with her mother in St. Louis, where she was molested by her mother’s boyfriend (Horsley 3).

Sadly, she was very young when she got raped in which her mother’s boyfriend took something very sacred and special from her. Fortunately, he got what he deserved, though he was murdered four days after he was released from jail in which led to Angelou retreating into voluntary silence, which lasted 5 years (Horsley 3). She experienced such great pain that she started to ball up which she could not wrap her head around what was going on. With Ms. Angelou having a tough life as a child, she really struggled as to find her identity.

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Although Maya Angelou was silent, she found her love for poetry that people still to this day know and love. It is as if the poetry she wrote was the way that she found her voice in her voluntary silence. Through her written works, Ms. Angelou expressed some very strong themes. For instance, in her poem “Still I Rise”, she begins with “ You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies/ You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I’ll rise…”(Angelou 163). In these lines, she expresses the theme of strength whereas she is showing that she is strong enough to know that words have no power over her. She also goes on to say in this poem, “You may shoot me with your words/ You may cut me with your eyes/ You may kill me with your hatefulness/ But still, like air, I’ll rise…”(Angelou 163). In these lines she is saying that whatever you throw at her trying to break her down she will be strong and endure it. Being so optimistic, she goes on to say, “Out of the huts of history’s shame/I rise/Up from a past that’s rooted in pain/I rise...”(Angelou 164). She basically says in these lines that although she has pain from the past, she stills overcomes and rises above it.

Last but least at the end of the poem, she states, “I rise/ I rise/ I rise.(Angelou 164)” The way she repeats it emphasizes how much confidence she has despite the hardships she faced in life. In her poem,“Alone”, she says, “Alone, all alone/ Nobody, but nobody/ Can make it out here alone.(Angelou 74)” In this poem, she covers the theme of the need for family whereas she is saying that you’re going to need somebody such as family even if you don’t think so; it is as if your soul requires it. Overall, Maya Angelou provided various messages to her readers through her written works.

With Maya Angelou expressing such significant themes, she became an inspirational and influential writer that appealed to many in which she received many accomplishments. For example, when she wrote the screenplay for the movie Georgia, in 1972 she became the first African American woman to do a film. Plus, it was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. (America’s Renaissance Woman 9) As one can see, she was making history and with the movie being nominated for such a great award shows that she is an exceptional writer. In 2000, Angelou was awarded with the Presidential Medal of the Arts and later on, in 2008, she received the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal. ( America’s Renaissance Women 13)

In that same year, she potrayed as the narrator in the award-winning documentary film The Black Candle and published a guidance book for young women titled, Letter to My Daughter. (America’s Renaissance Woman 13) With her narrating the movie, it shows that she was very well educated, speaking in which a time where blacks did not get a good education, to do such a big thing. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the country’s highest honor award that a civilian can received. (America’s Renaissance Woman 3) To receive the highest reward from the president shows that she made a big difference and is an extraordinary person.

Overall, Maya Angelou overcame the obstacles she struggled with through life to express them through her works and to go on to be recognized as a remarkable writer and furthermore a person. She was a strong woman who always fought for education, justice, and equality. She wrote such great works and did such great doings that she influenced people from all over. For instance, singer/songwriter, Alicia Keys referenced Angelou as a “renaissance woman,” where at the time she was in her prime embracing the African American cultural event.

Oprah Winfrey, actress and talk show host, says that Angelou is not known for the things she has done but how she’s done it whereas Winfrey even saw her as her mentor. She took over the hearts of many people in which she became a very impactful person who made a difference in the world. Sadly though, she died due to heart problems on May 28, 2014, in North Carolina at 86 years young.

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