In honor of Maya Angelou, following her death at the age of 86, here is some of her work in her own voice.
Emma Brown explained in the Washington Post obituary for Angelou that she was a "performer instantly identified by her regal presence and rich, honeyed voice." But Angelou famously recounted in her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings how she willed herself to silence after her rape as a child, believing that her voice had the power to kill when her attacker was found dead. "From the silence, a louder voice was born," Faith Karimi wrote at CNN. So to remember the profound impact of that voice, hear it now.
To begin, here is Angelou reciting what is perhaps her most famous poem, "Still I Rise."
Angelou explained the genesis of her poem "We Wear the Mask," before speaking it on BET's Bobby Jones Gospel.
And here is her voice put to her poem "Phenomenal Woman."
Angelou served as the inaugural poet for Bill Clinton in 1993, reading "On the Pulse of the Morning." Angelou was the first poet to read at the inauguration ceremony since Robert Frost's recitation of "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's.
Though black women were largely excluded from Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March" in 1995, Angelou delivered a poem for the occasion. In Mary Jane Lupton's "critical companion" of Angelou's work, Lupton writes that the poem "is written from the point of view of a black woman inside the struggle but at the same time distanced, advising her marching brothers that they cannot achieve wholeness of being until they rise together out of slavery."
For another way to celebrate Angelou's life, you can also watch the movie Angelou directed, Down in the Delta, which is currently streaming on Netflix.