Are you looking for Maya Angelou quotes? If yes, you have come to the right place.
Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. In 1971, Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die.
She later wrote the poem “On the Pulse of Morning”—one of her most famous works—which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACPImage Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009. She died on May 28, 2014.
We have compiled a list of Maya Angelou quotes for you to read.
Maya Angelou Quotes
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.
There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.
I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.
I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
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.
If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.
I have a son, who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind.
My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’ means intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.
In all my work, I try to say – ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’
I did work in a strip club, but I didn’t strip. I danced, and I became very popular.
One of the wonderful things about Oprah: She teaches you to keep on stepping.
How wonderful it is to be an American. We have known the best of times and the worst of times.
Whenever I want to laugh, I read a wonderful book, ‘Children’s Letters to God.’ You can open it anywhere. One I read recently said, ‘Dear God, thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.’
A black person grows up in this country – and in many places – knowing that racism will be as familiar as salt to the tongue. Also, it can be as dangerous as too much salt. I think that you must struggle for betterment for yourself and for everyone.
At 50, I began to know who I was. It was like waking up to myself.
In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.
I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
I love the melodies in the Old Testament, how preachers highlight them when they read from the Scripture. But I was influenced forever by the New Testament. I love the Beatitudes, informing us that the meek shall inherit the earth.
Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.
We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.
When younger writers and poets, musicians and painters are weakened by a stemming of funds, they come to me saddened, not as full of dreams and excitement and ideas. I am then weakened and diminished, and made less rich.
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.
Black people comprehend the South. We understand its weight. It has rested on our backs… I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. I had to face the fear/loathing at its source or it would consume me whole.
I never expected anyone to take care of me, but in my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies. I knew that was yearning like one yearns to fly.
I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, ‘I write for money.’ Yes, I think everybody should be paid handsomely; I insist on it, and I pay people who work for me, or with me, handsomely.
I’m very, very serious – I’m serious enough not to take myself too seriously. That means I can be completely wedded to the moment. But when I leave that moment, I want to be completely wedded to the next moment.
I’ve still not written as well as I want to. I want to write so that the reader in Des Moines, Iowa, in Kowloon, China, in Cape Town, South Africa, can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’
I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me.
There’s something which impels us to show our inner souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
I like chicken a lot because chicken is generous – that is to say, it’s obedient. It will do whatever you tell it to do.
One of my lungs is half gone, and the other half, because I smoked for years, has a lesion. So I can’t swim anymore and had the swimming pool covered over. Now it’s what I call the dance pavilion, and so I and my friends sit out and put music on and watch people dance.
I have a feeling that I make a very good friend, and I’m a good mother, and a good sister, and a good citizen. I am involved in life itself – all of it. And I have a lot of energy and a lot of nerve. Maya Angelou
Life loves the liver of it.
A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low. And certainly don’t whine. You can be brought low, that’s OK, but don’t be reduced by them. Just say, ‘That’s life.’
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.’
Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.
What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.
I thank God I’m myself and for the life I’m given to live and for friends and lovers and beloveds, and I thank God for knowing that all those people have already paid for me.
I refuse to allow any man-made differences to separate me from any other human beings.
Human beings love poetry. They don’t even know it sometimes… whether they’re the songs of Bono, or the songs of Justin Bieber… they’re listening to poetry.
If we don’t plant the right things, we will reap the wrong things. It goes without saying. And you don’t have to be, you know, a brilliant biochemist and you don’t have to have an IQ of 150. Just common sense tells you to be kind, ninny, fool. Be kind.
When I cook for my family on Christmas, I make feijoada, a South American dish of roasted and smoked meats like ham, pork, beef, lamb, and bacon – all served with black beans and rice. It’s festive but different.
The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.
It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.
Cooking certain dishes, like roast pork, reminds me of my mother.
My greatest blessing has been the birth of my son. My next greatest blessing has been my ability to turn people into children of mine.
If you were the President of the United States or the Queen of England – you couldn’t have a person who would be more protective than my mother was for me. Which meant really that I could dare to do all sorts of things.
If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you’ll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it.
Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.
Encouragement to all women is – let us try to offer help before we have to offer therapy. That is to say, let’s see if we can’t prevent being ill by trying to offer a love of prevention before illness.
I never had that feeling that I had to carry the weight of somebody’s ignorance around with me. And that was true for racists who wanted to use the ‘n’ word when talking about me or about my people, or the stupidity of people who really wanted to belittle other folks because they weren’t pretty or they weren’t rich or they weren’t clever.
I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best – I mean, when I’m at my best – of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music or in my poetry and prose, or I missed everything.
I think Clinton, after getting into office and into Washington, was shocked at being bludgeoned. So he spent time trying to be all things to all people – one way guaranteed not to be successful or respected in a lion’s den. You can’t just play around with all those big cats – you’ve got to take somebody on.
I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.
When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky – in the big cities, too, for that matter.
All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.
I love a Hebrew National hot dog with an ice-cold Corona – no lime. If the phone rings, I won’t answer until I’m done.
I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.
We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.
In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats – maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats – but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be. Human beings are more alike than unalike.
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.
You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lines. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.
My grandmother took me to church on Sunday all day long, every Sunday into the night. Then Monday evening was the missionary meeting. Tuesday evening was usher board meeting. Wednesday evening was prayer meeting. Thursday evening was visit the sick. Friday evening was choir practice. I mean, and at all those gatherings, we sang.
Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.
Every December, I host a tree-trimming party. I serve chili with cornbread and lots of good wine. It’s a wonderful party, and it shows how much adults like to play.
Everyone has at least one story, and each of us is funny if we admit it. You have to admit you’re the funniest person you’ve ever heard of.
Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
All great achievements require time.
Nothing will work unless you do.
I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.
And if a person is religious, I think it’s good, it helps you a bit. But if you’re not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe.
Effective action is always unjust.
If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear.
All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy – but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. And that’s how I am guided.
Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.
On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden.
I’m always disappointed when people don’t live up to their potential. I know that a number of people look down on themselves and consequently on everybody who looks like them. But that, too, can change.
The terrorist action of 9/11 gave birth to President Obama’s entry to the White House. Not directly, but indirectly.
I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.
Don’t get older just to get wiser. If you get older, you will be wiser, I believe that – if you dare. But get older because it’s fun!
Somehow, we have come to the erroneous belief that we are all but flesh, blood, and bones, and that’s all. So we direct our values to material things.
I got my own back.
There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name.
There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.
Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerance. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.
Like a pianist runs her fingers over the keys, I’ll search my mind for what to say. Now, the poem may want you to write it. And then sometimes you see a situation and think, ‘I’d like to write about that.’ Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem, or approaching a poem.
It is a no-fail, incontrovertible reality: If you get, give. If you learn, teach. You can’t do anything with that except do it.
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