14 Powerful Pieces of Life Wisdom From the Great Maya Angelou That Will Inspire and Uplift You

HJ: Maya Angelou is a perfect example of someone who unabashedly followed her passions and lived a massively transformational life by doing so, touching billions with her words, thoughts, ideas and wisdom.  The universe supports us endlessly when we say yes to our destiny and give our gifts to the world.  We can all learn from her shinning, brilliant example.

– Truth

Maya Angelou, prolific poet and civil rights activist, died on Wednesday at the age of 86. Despite her passing, Angelou’s legacy will live on through her captivating words and beautiful insight on the human spirit. Below are 14 of the author’s most uplifting quotes on life, love and how to be a better person.

1. “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot… Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

2. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

3. “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

4. “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”

5. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

6. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

7. “Everything in the universe has a rhythm. Everything dances.”

8. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”

9. “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

10. “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”

11. “Nothing will work unless you do.”

12. “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

13. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

14. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”


Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist.

Born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou was raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. In Stamps, Dr. Angelou experienced the brutality of racial discrimination, but she also absorbed the unshakable faith and values of traditional African-American family, community, and culture.

As a teenager, Dr. Angelou’s love for the arts won her a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook, however her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry would soon take center stage.

In 1954 and 1955, Dr. Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced withAlvin Ailey on television variety shows and, in 1957, recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in the historic Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom.

In 1960, Dr. Angelou moved to Cairo, Egypt where she served as editor of the English language weeklyThe Arab Observer. The next year, she moved to Ghana where she taught at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama, worked as feature editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times.

During her years abroad, Dr. Angelou read and studied voraciously, mastering French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language Fanti. While in Ghana, she met with Malcolm X and, in 1964, returned to America to help him build his new Organization of African American Unity.

Shortly after her arrival in the United States, Malcolm X was assassinated, and the organization dissolved. Soon after X’s assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked Dr. Angelou to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King’s assassination, falling on her birthday in 1968, left her devastated.

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 was published to international acclaim and enormous popular success. The list of her published verse, non-fiction, and fiction now includes more than 30 bestselling titles.

A trailblazer in film and television, Dr. Angelou wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia. Her script, the first by an African American woman ever to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

She continues to appear on television and in films including the landmark television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots (1977) and John Singleton’s Poetic Justice(1993). In 1996, she directed her first feature film,Down in the Delta. In 2008, she composed poetry for and narrated the award-winning documentary The Black Candle, directed by M.K. Asante.

Dr. Angelou has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and has received 3 Grammy Awards. President Clinton requested that she compose a poem to read at his inauguration in 1993. Dr. Angelou’s reading of her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” was broadcast live around the world.

Dr. Angelou has received over 50 honorary degrees and is Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

Dr. Angelou’s words and actions continue to stir our souls, energize our bodies, liberate our minds, and heal our hearts.

Source: MayaAngelou.com

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  1. Wonderful news that you and your wife were able to enjoy friendship with Maya, Always loved to hear her voice and read her beautiful works. I was glad that Denison Forum paid tribute to Maya.and not some sports figure.

    Do you ever read Einstein or listen to any CD’s about him. I like to listen to his concepts about God and the Universe.. God gave me a head of hair like Einsteins but not a comparable intelligence. Do you think God likes to joke sometime???

    Best regards, Kitty

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