born 1928

Maya Angelou is one of the most quoted women in the world...with good reason. From her first book to her last tweet, her words ~ whether carefully crafted or off-the-cuff ~ radiate grace, wit + wisdom. A precocious child rendered mute by abuse, Maya would go from single, teenage mom working odd jobs as a waitress, dancer and paint remover to internationally renowned author and civil rights leader. 

By the time she passed away at 86, she had mastered 6 languages, written more than 30 best-sellers and been nominated for a Tony, Grammy, Emmy, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. A testament to the power of stories, Maya drew upon her love of language to tell "the truth of the human being."

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Maya Angelou (31)

"If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | 1969

"Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | 1969

"The dread of futility has been my life-long plague."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | 1969

"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."

Still I Rise | 1978

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Bell Telephone Magazine | 1982

"There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic."

Facing Evil with Maya Angelou | 1988

"I go forth alone, I stand as ten thousand."

Our Grandmothers | 1990

"Every human being has paid the earth to grow up...But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed."

The Art of Fiction, no. 119 | fall 1990

"History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again."

On the Pulse of Morning | january 1993

"Life doesn't frighten me. Not at all. Not at all."

Life Doesn't Frighten Me | february 1993

"I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory."

Academy of Achievement | january 1997

"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me 'I love you.' . . . There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."

The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture | may 1997

"Heroism has nothing to do with skin color or social status. It is a state of mind and a willingness to act for what is right and just."

Reflections on Working Toward Peace | 2000

"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."

The Oprah Winfrey Show | april 2000

"Life is a glorious banquet, a limitless and delicious buffet."

Hallmark's Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection | january 2002

"We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas. We beckon this good season to wait a while with us."

Amazing Peace | december 2005

"Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters, Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope, And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air. The world is encouraged to come away from rancor, Come the way of friendship."

Amazing Peace | december 2005

"It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time...On this platform of peace, we can create a language—To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other."

Amazing Peace | december 2005

"Each of us has a chance to be somebody."

Iconoclasts | november 2006

"Be courageous, but not foolhardy. Walk proud as you are."

Letters to My Younger Self | april 2008

"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."

Letter to My Daughter | 2009

"Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud."

Letter to My Daughter | 2009

"I am convinced that most people do not grow up…our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias."

Letter to My Daughter | october 2009

"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."

Facebook post | july 2011

"When you know better, you do better."

The Powerful Lesson Maya Taught Oprah | october 2011

"Sister, when you get, give. When you learn, teach."

Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012

"I try to see every day as a celebration . . . So every day I awaken I am grateful."

Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012

"I love the slow way of cooking...Not just for the taste, but because it infuses the house with an aroma that says 'You are welcome.'"

Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Maya Angelou | 2012

"As we approach Thanksgiving; and as we experience it, and even after; I carefully maintain an attitude of gratitude. And, I have changed that old saying around from 'give 'til it hurts' and now I tell myself, give 'til it helps."

Facebook post | november 2012

"If you develop the art of seeing us as more alike than we are unalike, then all stories are understandable."

Harvard Business Review | may 2013

"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

Maya's final tweet | may 2014
  • Quotabelle profile
  • Maya Angelou

curated with care by Alicia Williamson {june 2014}