Maya Angelou 'The People’s Poet' Speaks in Memphis

Aug 27, 2012

The six-foot tall Maya Angelou wore an off-white gown, a long pearl necklace, and sunglasses on the stage of the Cannon Center. Angelou was in Memphis to help raise money and awareness for Agape Child & Family Services.

Angelou has quite a list of accomplishments. She has written books of poetry and memoirs. She was appointed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by Martin Luther King Jr. She read a poem at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. She has also danced, acted in films, and she was nominated for an Emmy for her role in the television mini-series Roots.

There is a story Angelou tells in her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and she shared it with the audience in Memphis. When Angelou was seven she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She testified against the man and he was murdered by her uncles. Angelou believed her voice had killed him. She didn’t speak for five years after that. But when she did, she helped change the world.

“See where I came from—Stamps, Arkansas. A mute,” Angelou said. “And today you come to hear me speak.”

Angelou grew up poor in segregated Stamps and St. Louis, Missouri, but she became a best-selling author of world renown. Her writing is a staple in college classrooms both because of its literary merit and the role it played in the Civil Rights Movement.

She told the crowd in Memphis she didn’t do it without help. Angelou said it is our capacity to care for others that makes people truly remarkable. And she read a poem called “A Brave And Startling Truth.”