Angelou
Photo courtesy of Uneek Doll Designs

Maya Angelou was known throughout the world for her poetry, her books, and her work as an actress, director, composer, and college professor. Her popularity began in the late 1960s and forged on throughout the next several decades. She endured terrible tragedies in her early life, including family abuse and the consequences of racism, which began for her as a young child in Arkansas, where she lived with her grandmother. She later distanced herself from that life and spoke about her feelings about the place of her youth when interviewed as a middle-aged woman for a PBS special.

Like other Arkansas writers, her poetry and stories grew out of a painful life, with some of those years in the segregated town of Stamps. Click here to see footage of a time she traveled back there via the billmoyers.com website: Maya Angelou in Stamps, Arkansas.

When former President Bill Clinton, also originally from a small town in Arkansas, was choosing the components of his first inauguration, he decided to follow in the footsteps of former President John F. Kennedy by inviting a reading of an original inauguration poem by a popular poet of the day. He chose Maya Angelou, who read a poem she wrote for the occasion on January 20, 1993.

The poem she created, “On the Pulse of the Morning,” is here: poetry.eserver.org/inaugural-poem. Read more about her life and times at poets.org/poetsorg/poet/maya-angelou.

Maya Angelou gained a doctorate and was a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University and ultimately published more than 40 books, all frequently on bestseller lists. She is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by former President Barack Obama.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An Author Adventures team member completed a research trip to a group of literary landmarks in Stamps recently. This page will be updated soon.

Stamps is the fifth and final stop on our Arkansas Author Adventures Trail!

Patricia Smart