“Just like the moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I rise.”- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American author, poet and civil rights activist whose words will forever transcend time. In her passing on May 28, she has left a world of hope in her wake for all to become enraptured in, even in her absence. 

From writing international bestselling books such as “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” to being a television personality and even being nominated for a Tony, there appeared to be nothing that Angelou couldn’t do. Growing up in a time of racial adversity, she stood beside some of the most influential civil rights leaders, such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Maya Angelou, through her words, had a way of making people feel as though they weren’t alone in the world and that no matter the situation, you would come out on the other side stronger.

maya angelou

“You will face many defeats in your life but never let yourself be defeated.”- Maya Angelou

In her passing, social media pages were bombarded with messages from those who wanted to pay tribute to her memory. From hash tags such as #MayaTaughtMe to posts sharing some of her most influential quotes, Angelou is clearly seen as the mother of spoken word.

In addition to her great writings, she was also a teacher of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Those who attended her classes said that she was an amazing teacher, but that she was tough. One student said, “A fantastic motivator and I hope to have more of her classes in the future.”

Oprah Winfrey, who was a close friend of Angelou’s, talked to her about her teaching methods and why she was so hard on her students. Angelou replied, “I teach all the time, as you do and as all of you do—whether we know it or not, whether we take responsibility for it or not,” she said. “I hold nothing back because I want to see that light go off. I like to see the children say, ‘I never thought of that before.’ And I think, ‘I’ve got them!”

Winfrey calls Angelou her mother, sister and friend stating, “What stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

This is not to stay that Angelou’s rise to greatness was always smooth. Growing up between St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas, where segregation was rampant, she was surrounded by those who hated her for the color of her skin. In addition to these hardships, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seven. After testifying against him, she stopped speaking at all for six years.

“My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years,” she said.

Despite these trials, she grew strong within herself. Once she began to speak again, she made sure to have a voice that could never be silenced. Though Maya Angelou has passed on, it is inevitable to say that even in her death, her words and actions will never truly leave us. For Angelou had a voice that will echo well into the next century and beyond.

“You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies, you may tread me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I rise.”-Maya Angelou