Considered one of our national treasures, and the author of many best-selling books including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s performance/lecture stresses the value of ethnic, economic, and religious diversity in all undertakings. A passionate and powerful speaker, Maya Angelou challenges her audiences to invest their spirits and hearts in the elevation of the human condition. Chosen by President Bill Clinton, when she delivered her dedicatory poem “On The Pulse of Morning” at the Presidential Inaugural ceremony in January 1993, she became only the second poet in U.S. history to have the honor of writing and reciting original work at the Inauguration.
Dr. Angelou has authored twelve best-selling books including her best seller A Song Flung Up to Heaven. She shatters the opaque prisms of race and class between reader and subject throughout her books of poetry and her autobiographies. In 1981, Maya Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the First Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. Maya Angelou has contributed her shorts stories and poems to publications such as Black Scholar, Redbook Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Ebony magazine, Cosmopolitan, California Living magazine, Mademoiselle, Life magazine, Ghanaian Times, Chicago Daily News, and the Sunday New York Times.
As a renowned poet, Maya Angelou presents her poetry at impressive venues such as the United Nations, where A Brave and Startling Truth was recited at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. From a Black Woman to a Black Man was delivered at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in October 1995. Also in 1995, Bantam Books congratulated Maya Angelou for being the first African-American to run 24 uninterrupted months on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list. Her autobiographies include: A Song Flung up to Heaven; All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes; Gather Together in My Name; Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas; and The Heart of a Woman, which was USA Today’s 1997 best-selling book.
Nominated for best supporting actress in 1977 for her role as Nyo Boto (Grandmother) in the made-for-TV movie Roots, Maya Angelou’s acting career goes back to 1954, when she played Ruby in the European tour of Porgy and Bess (George Gershwin). 1998 marked her directorial film debut in Down in the Delta (Miramax Films). She has written and produced a multitude of plays, documentaries, and television programs, including the 30 half-hour segments of Humanities Through The Arts, and the CBS miniseries Three Way Choice, which she authored and executively produced.
Fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and West African Fanti, the list of other accomplishments by Maya Angelou is varied and indicative of her global passion and commitment: She taught modern dance at the Rome Opera House and the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv; was the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, appointed by the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the associated editor of the Arab Observer, Cairo, Egypt (English Language News Weekly); the assistant administrator and teacher at the School of Music and Drama, University of Ghana; served as feature editor of African Review, Accra, Ghana; a contributor of free-lance articles to the Ghanaian Times; contributor to Radio Ghana; a writer-in-residence, University of Kansas; appointed member of American Revolution Bicentennial Council by President Gerald Ford; served on Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Commission for International Women’s Year; and was a panelist at Institute for the Study of Human Systems in Zermatt, Switzerland. Maya Angelou also wrote the invocation and benediction for “Jessye Norman Sings for the Healing of Aids.”
Too numerous to name, a partial listing of Maya Angelou’s affiliations include membership in the Director’s Guild of America; AFTRA (American Federation Television Radio Artists); Harlem Writer’s Guild; The National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year; Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans; Doctors Without Borders; W.E.B. Dubois Foundation, Inc.; National Society of Collegiate Scholars; National Society of High School Scholars of Atlanta, Ga.; Ambassador, UNICEF International; and Rockefeller Foundation Scholar in Italy - Scholar-in-Residence at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center. She is or has been on the Advisory Boards of Bennett College, First Commercial Bank, the Woman’s Prison Association, The National Society of High School Scholars, and the Board of Trustees at American Film Institute.
The National Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Children, London, England, named a Center for Maya Angelou, “NSPCC Maya Angelou C.P.T. and Family Centre.”
In addition to Dr. Angelou’s degree from Occidental College, she has been awarded Honorary Degrees from: Lawrence University (Wisconsin); Mills College; Mt. Holyoke College; North Carolina School of the Arts; Occidental College; Quinnipiac; Rollins College; Simmons College; Skidmore College; Smith College; Spelman College; Brunesis; the Universities of Arkansas at Pinebluff, Durham (England), Minnesota, Portland State, North Carolina, Northeastern, Shaw, South Carolina, South Dakota State, Southern California, Tennessee, Tufts, Vermont, Virginia, Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State, Brandise, and Wheaton College.
Awards for which Dr. Angelou has been nominated include the National Book Award for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings; the Pulitzer Prize for Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie; a Tony Award for her performance in Look Away; and an Emmy Award for her role in the movie Roots. She is the recipient of scores of honors and awards, such as: The Alston/Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award; the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award; the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame; the Black Caucus of American Library Association Cultural Keepers Award; Chubb Fellowship Award - Yale University; City Proclamation, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Distinguished Woman of North Carolina; Essence Woman of the Year; Golden Eagle Award - Documentary for PBS, Afro-American in the Arts; The Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album for Phenomenal Woman; the Horatio Alger Award; Ladies’ Home Journal “Top 100 Most influential Women,” and “Woman of the Year in Communication”; Frank G. Wells Award; Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature; National Conference of Christians & Jews, Distinguished Merit Citation; Presidential Medal of Arts 2000; the Langston Hughes Award; and the North Carolina Award in Literature, the highest honor the State bestows.
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