Maya Angelou Quotes
Here you may find the best collection of insightful Maya Angelou Quotes.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
I’m considered wise, and sometimes I see myself as knowing. Most of the time, I see myself as wanting to know. And I see myself as a very interested person. I’ve never been bored in my life.
Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.
A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
That’s the biggest gift I can give anybody: ‘Wake up, be aware of who you are, what you’re doing and what you can do to prevent yourself from becoming ill.’
I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
The love of the family, the love of one person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
I have a feeling that I make a very good friend, and I’m a good mother, and a good sister, and a good citizen. I am involved in life itself – all of it. And I have a lot of energy and a lot of nerve.
What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.
The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you – black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.
I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
At 50, I began to know who I was. It was like waking up to myself.
At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
My greatest blessing has been the birth of my son. My next greatest blessing has been my ability to turn people into children of mine.
The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.
While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.
If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.
Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear.
I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.
I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.
Modesty is a learned affectation. And as soon as life slams the modest person against the wall, that modesty drops.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around. I’ll probably be writing when the Lord says, ‘Maya, Maya Angelou, it’s time.’
If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
When a person is going through hell, and she encounters someone who went through hellish hell and survived, then she can say, ‘Mine is not so bad as all that. She came through, and so can I.’
When younger writers and poets, musicians and painters are weakened by a stemming of funds, they come to me saddened, not as full of dreams and excitement and ideas. I am then weakened and diminished, and made less rich.
I do like to have guns around. I don’t like to carry them. But I like – if somebody is going to come into my house and I have not put out the welcome mat, I want to stop them.
I speak a number of languages, but none are more beautiful to me than English.
Effective action is always unjust.
Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.
I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
All great achievements require time.
Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’
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.
My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.
During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.’
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves that we can be ready and able to come to our own defence when and wherever needed.
I would be stupid not to be on my own side. But I’m a human being, too. And I’m on the side of human beings, rather than on the side of crocodiles.
Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’ – which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.
Those of us who submitted or surrendered our ideas and dreams and identities to the ‘leaders’ must take back our rights, our identities, our responsibilities.
There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
I’m interested in women’s health because I’m a woman. I’d be a darn fool not to be on my own side.
Achievement brings its own anticlimax.
I wasn’t a pretty girl. I was six feet tall at 15, you know.
Like a pianist runs her fingers over the keys, I’ll search my mind for what to say. Now, the poem may want you to write it. And then sometimes you see a situation and think, ‘I’d like to write about that.’ Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem, or approaching a poem.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind.
All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy – but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. And that’s how I am guided.
All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.
Black people comprehend the South. We understand its weight. It has rested on our backs… I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. I had to face the fear/loathing at its source or it would consume me whole.
Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.
When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess.
Politicians must set their aims for the high ground and according to our various leanings, Democratic, Republican, Independent, we will follow. Politicians must be told if they continue to sink into the mud of obscenity, they will proceed alone.
Whenever something went wrong when I was young – if I had a pimple or if my hair broke – my mom would say, ‘Sister mine, I’m going to make you some soup.’ And I really thought the soup would make my pimple go away or my hair stronger.
The loss of young first love is so painful that it borders on the ludicrous.
We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.
It’s still scary every time I go back to the past. Each morning, my heart catches. When I get there, I remember how the light was, where the draft was coming from, what odors were in the air. When I write, I get all the weeping out.
Growing up, I decided, a long time ago, I wouldn’t accept any manmade differences between human beings, differences made at somebody else’s insistence or someone else’s whim or convenience.
Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’ Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I deserve it.’
To take a few nouns, and a few pronouns, and adverbs and adjectives, and put them together, ball them up, and throw them against the wall to make them bounce. That’s what Norman Mailer did. That’s what James Baldwin did, and Joan Didion did, and that’s what I do – that’s what I mean to do.
Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses.
I think that that’s the wisest thing – to prevent illness before we try to cure something.
I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, ‘I write for money.’ Yes, I think everybody should be paid handsomely; I insist on it, and I pay people who work for me, or with me, handsomely.
I long for the time when all human history is taught as one history, because it really is.
I could fall in love with a sumo wrestler if he told stories and made me laugh. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church. Because then I wouldn’t have to translate.
Writing and cookery are just two different means of communication.
I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is.
I’m a serious aficionada of country music – Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry. I’ve even written some songs. They haven’t done anything of mine yet. But it’s only a matter of time.
I think music is one of the hero/sheroes of the African-American existence.
I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody.
In all my work, I try to say – ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’
I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.
Early on, I was so impressed with Charles Dickens. I grew up in the South, in a little village in Arkansas, and the whites in my town were really mean, and rude. Dickens, I could tell, wouldn’t be a man who would curse me out and talk to me rudely.
I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’ means intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.
Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low. And certainly don’t whine. You can be brought low, that’s OK, but don’t be reduced by them. Just say, ‘That’s life.’
In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.
The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.
I know some people might think it odd – unworthy even – for me to have written a cookbook, but I make no apologies. The U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins thought I had demeaned myself by writing poetry for Hallmark Cards, but I am the people’s poet so I write for the people.
I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.
There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
I believe that every person is born with talent.
I liked to write from the time I was about 12 or 13. I loved to read. And since I only spoke to my brother, I would write down my thoughts. And I think I wrote some of the worst poetry west of the Rockies. But by the time I was in my 20s, I found myself writing little essays and more poetry – writing at writing.
Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.
The only thing is, people have to develop courage. It is most important of all the virtues. Because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtues consistently.
I never expected anyone to take care of me, but in my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies. I knew that was yearning like one yearns to fly.
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.
I love the melodies in the Old Testament, how preachers highlight them when they read from the Scripture. But I was influenced forever by the New Testament. I love the Beatitudes, informing us that the meek shall inherit the earth.
I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.
I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.
My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.
Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.
I love a Hebrew National hot dog with an ice-cold Corona – no lime. If the phone rings, I won’t answer until I’m done.
Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.
I know that I’m not the easiest person to live with. The challenge I put on myself is so great that the person I live with feels himself challenged. I bring a lot to bear, and I don’t know how not to.
Cooking certain dishes, like roast pork, reminds me of my mother.
I got my own back.
Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
I’ve read everything Thomas Wolfe ever wrote; my brother and I memorized whole chapters of ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ and ‘Look Homeward, Angel.’
One of the wonderful things about Oprah: She teaches you to keep on stepping.
If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you’ll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it.
For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!
As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.
I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.
On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden.
Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.
We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
I love the song ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. I was going to write that song, but someone beat me to it.
And if a person is religious, I think it’s good, it helps you a bit. But if you’re not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe.
Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.
If you were the President of the United States or the Queen of England – you couldn’t have a person who would be more protective than my mother was for me. Which meant really that I could dare to do all sorts of things.
For a person who grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed without explanation to me, libraries and books said, ‘Here I am, read me.’ Over time I have learned I am at my best around books.
If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.
Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
Everyone has at least one story, and each of us is funny if we admit it. You have to admit you’re the funniest person you’ve ever heard of.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerance. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
In a magazine, one can get – from cover to cover – 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it.
I think a number of the leaders are, whether you like it or not, in the hip-hop generation. And when they understand enough, they’ll do wonders. I count on them.
I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.
Life loves the liver of it.
I know for sure that loves saves me and that it is here to save us all.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
Nothing will work unless you do.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
If you’re serious, you really understand that it’s important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you’re the funniest person you ever met. You have to laugh. Admit that you’re funny. Otherwise, you die in solemnity.
Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.
Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
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