Best Maya Angelou Quotations, Her Powerful History, and Inspirational Life

Famous Maya Angelou Quotation: I Rise!

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Who is Maya Angelou?

Maya Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis Missouri, later moving to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with her grandmother. Born Marguerite, she became Maya when her little brother couldn’t pronounce her name.

Growing up, Angelou experienced racial discrimination, and sexual abuse at age seven, that caused her not to speak for five years. After her uncle killed her stepfather for the abuse, the young Angelou felt that her words had killed her abuser. Despite hardships in her childhood, Maya attributes her values and religious faith to her grandmother’s and family’s influence.

Maya did find her voice again and became well-known nearly overnight with her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This book recounts the poet’s childhood all the way up to the birth of her own child.

Sadly, the world lost this beautiful person on May 28, 2014, when she died at the age of 86.


The Inaugural Poem

Maya Angelou's Achievements

There is really so much to tell about this great woman. She was close friends with both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and, of course, she wrote. She wrote a lot—poetry, stories, essays—and she was asked to speak publicly.

Presidents have asked her to serve in different ways. Former President Bill Clinton asked her to create a poem for his first inauguration in to the White House. “On the Pulse of the Morning” was the result of that request. In 2008, President Barack Obama awarded Ms. Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Read more about this amazing lady at the Academy of Achievement.

What a great lady! As I love quotations, I’ll share with you some of the favorites I have found over the years.


Where was Maya Angelou born?

A markerSt. Louis, Missouri -
St Louis, MO, USA
[get directions]

My Favorite Maya Angelou Quotation

"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.” --Maya Angelou

I came across this quotation years ago--don't remember where--and typed it up on a sheet to put in the plastic holder outside my office. Working at a life care center in the nursing home facility, I was always looking for inspirational quotations to put outside my door. Over the years, I had many comments from employees and residents who enjoyed seeing what I would put out next.

This particular quote fit what I thought our purpose was in taking care of the elderly, and its message rings true in any situation. This Angelou quotation was and is definitely one of my all time favorites.


Collection of Maya Angelou Poetry

Inspiring Maya Angelou Quotations for Writers

Certain quotes of Angelou I can relate to as a writer, as I feel that sense of something inside just bursting to get out.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Oh, yeah, writers have to let it out!)

"Making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake." (I can relate. Kind of painfully shocking at first, but oh so refreshing and brave!)

"The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” (Love how it slides on through to the heart. Very cool!)

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” (Writers don't have the answers; they just have something to say--that they just have to say!)

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” (Aw, wonderful for an aspiring writer!)

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” (Just like love!)

"Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.” (The poets out there understand--don't you?)


Simply Beautiful Maya Angelou Quotations

I hope you don't mind my comments after each quote. I can't seem to help myself.

"Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.” (Simple and sweet!)

"Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” (Self-explanatory!)

"Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” (Easier said than done, but so, so true.)

“I want to thank you, Lord, for life and all that's in it.
Thank you for the day and for the hour, and the minute. ” (Love this rhyme!)

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill,
of things unknown, but longed for still,
and his tune is heard on the distant hill,
for the caged bird sings of freedom.” (from the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” (Curl my back to loneliness? How beautifully poetic is that!)

"In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours

In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.” (So romantic . . . . )

“The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don't know my story...” (Is that true or what? Wonderfully said.)

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take buy by the moments that take your breath away.” (This is another one of my favorites. It breathes beauty.)


Need Motivation? Inspirational Quotations by Maya Angelou

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.” (I should take this advice more often!)

"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” (Ditto from above comment!)

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” (Yeah, I'm getting the message!)

"You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!” (I love the spirit of this quotation!)

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.” (Yeah, I love the raw courage of this one.)

"Ain't nothin' to it, but to do it.” (Simple and to the point.)


Humorous Maya Angelou Quotations

"I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh.” (Seriously . . . . )

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.” (I don't think I have a problem with this one.)

"I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.” (I just have to chuckle at this one.)

“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 some things back.” (Again . . . chuckles . . . . )

"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” (Not very well in my case--especially with the Christmas tree lights!)

"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.” (Too cute!)


Final Thoughts: Quotations on Hope

"No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” (Like Scarlett O'Hara would say, Tomorrow is another day . . . right?)

"If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.” (A good mantra!)

"I believe that each of us comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory." (Ah, how poetic that "trailing wisps of glory.")

And there are many more Maya Angelou quotations out there . . . . You owe it to yourself to check out this lovely, inspirational lady.


A delightful interview with Maya Angelou

Comments 72 comments

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Great hub Vicki! I am a huge fan of Maya Angelou - I love her books and am so glad you informed me more about her! I didn't realize some of the hardships she faced but I did know she is a woman of great strength and courage! Very cool!


SommerDalton profile image

SommerDalton 4 years ago

Voted up, useful, interesting, and beautiful. Another great hub!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I never knew how she got her name. That's a cool tidbit to share. If it wasn't for Oprah I might never have known who Maya was, well until now. Maybe sooner. Who knows. Great hub about a beautiful lady.


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

This one is a keeper for sure. She is a great writer and a great lady as well.


Curiad profile image

Curiad 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

Very interesting Victoria, I have not read her work but may have to do that now!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

RealH--You're the first one to comment.Thanks! Glad you liked this one. Yeah, she went through a lot and is such a great source or inspiration! :-)


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

I love Maya Angelou. Her poem 'Woman' is one of my favourites.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

SommerDalton--Thanks so much for reading--and for all the votes!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Sunshine, yeah, I thought that was cool about her name! She and Oprah are great buds. Glad you read this! I think she is lovely!!!


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

I read "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" back in the early 70's and was amazed by the story as well the writing. There was obviously so much more I didn't know about her. Great Job!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Awesome hub about an awesome lady....and written by an awesome writer! That is a trifecta of awesomeness!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

"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.”

Love this!!!!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

You've written about another one of my heroes. I LOVE Maya Angelou - and I distinctly remember her poignant, beautiful poem at Clinton's inauguration - I was moved to tears. Love, love, love this!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

xstatic--I agree, totally. Thanks for that great input.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this exceptionally written article.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Curiad, Maya Angelou is a lovely woman and writer!!! I hope you do read her!


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Thanks for more insight into a very excellent writer -- I've admired her for years. Best/Sis


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Peanutritious--Glad you like her! She's awesome, huh?


g-girl11 profile image

g-girl11 4 years ago

Great idea for a hub. Maya Angelou is just so wise! It's great to see her quotes all together. My personal fave is the one about haters seeing your glory, but not knowing your story. Love that one and never heard it before. Thanks for sharing!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

rcrumple--Nice to see you, and thanks for the nice comments!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Bill--I love trifectas! Thanks so much!!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Audrey, I love that one, too. It's my very, very favorite!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

CC--Lovely comments! I'm not surprised you love this lady, too!!!


Casimiro 4 years ago

Of the ones in the hub I think this is my favorite:

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

It's so true, just like love. The more you love the more there is to draw upon.

Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring hub. It indeed slid past my brain and into my heart!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Mhatter--That's a nice compliment. Thanks so much!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Angela--You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Vee.....WTH??? I wrote a nice long comment to this! But I don't see it here now. Do your comments go into a resting place for your approval?? Or do I need to re-write my comment? Every once in awhile, I think I write a comment and then don't post the darn thing! Let me know please?


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

g-girl--I like that one, too! It's cool and catchy!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Casimiro--So true about love! And I love what you said, how the hub "slid past my brain and into my heart!" That's a great quotation by you!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Effer--WTH? No, comments don't sit and wait for me to get to them. I don't know what happened, but I'm bummed that I missed your adorable and always delightful comment!!! You can rewrite it if you want, but, if you don't, I'll know that it was wonderful! :-)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

well, vee...I did say quite a bit because I really admire Maya.....and have read some of her work. She's very wise and loving. Did you know she has her own line of products?.....One quote from her that I like is "When we KNOW better, We DO better." I think that's a great thing to remember when we make first-time supid mistakes......like write a comment and forget to POST it!!! lol......UP+++


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

LOL, Effer! You're so funny. No, I didn't know she has her own line of products. Like what? How cool!

NOW you know better!!! :-)


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Victoria,

You have showcased one of the most inspirational ladies of all times.

I will check my book of growing quotes and add some that I have not seen before.

I would also love to hear what kind of products from Paula.

May I add that Paula's example is the third I have heard in two days where comments are being lost...?

Vted UP and across the board...yes, a keeper. Hugs, Maria


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

What a great Hub. I hate to admit this, but while I've heard of this woman and knew a little about her, I didn't know much. Your hub was so interesting and such a joy to read. What an amazing woman!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

What a great hub and I am another who will have to admit that I had never heard of this woman either ;thanks for sharing.

Eddy.


YogaKat profile image

YogaKat 4 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

Wow . . . excellent hub on an excellent lady. Thank you for sharing her with me. I am so inspired by her quotes and the video:)


jhamann profile image

jhamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

What a spectacular hub about a poet who has shaped so many with her words. Thank you for writing this. Jamie


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Aw, Maria, you are such a doll. You give wonderful comments. Speaking of comments, I hadn't heard they were being lost. There are always glitches, huh? Thanks again. I love hearing from you!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

catgypsy--Glad you appreciated this great lady--and the hub! thanks!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Eddy, Good to see you! Hope you're doing well. It's never too late to find out about the great Maya Angelou!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

YogaKat--So glad you enjoyed the hub. Glad to share her!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, jhamann! She is quite wonderful!


Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 4 years ago from Oakland, California

Very beautiful hub on a beautiful person and writer.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Alladream. I appreciate that!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Like,.......wall hangings with her quotes, cups and mugs, cards and stationery, T-shirts...etc,.....I think I saw them in an expensive GIFT SHOP.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Effer, that is cool! Her quotes are perfect for items like that.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I would love to chat with her and learn about her life lessons. What an interesting person. Glad you shared this with us.


Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

Maya is a very special person. I first got to know about her from watching Oprah. Wonderful quotes all in one place, thanks to your wonderful hub, thanks.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

teaches--I would love to talk with her, too--or just hear her speak in person. Thanks for commenting!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, Ruby! Yeah, I think that she and Oprah are pretty close. Thanks for reading and commenting!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...personally speaking I like to quote ' Victoria Lynn' ........but Maya Angelou is a hero of mine too ...... sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 3:54am


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Aw, epi, thanks so much for stopping by. Maybe I'll have my own famous quotations one day! Thanks for the good energy!


Laurinzo Scott profile image

Laurinzo Scott 3 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

She is an incredible woman, and this is an incredible writing Victoria

Voted up and sharing ...definitely

Maya Angelou introduced me to a whole other vision of poetry, and her wisdom is undeniable

Great one!!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Laurinzo Scott, for BOTH compliments--and for voting and sharing. I agree on what you say about Maya Angelou. She IS so wise! Thanks so much!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

She is amazing ---a well-spring of words carefully assembled to cause us to stop and consider. I cannot read her writings without feeling moved in some way.

Great collection, Victoria.

Pinned, voted up, and shared.

Angels are on the way to you and yours this evening. :) ps


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

pstraubie--I agree. Maya Angelou is so inspiring. Glad you enjoy her, too. And thanks for the angels. I can use them, as always!


donnaisabella profile image

donnaisabella 3 years ago from Fort Myers

Nice read Victoria, Maya is one of my favorite writers... she inspires me a lot. Thanks for the quotes, they are beautiful because I love quotes too.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

donnaisabella--She's one of my faves, too. I love quotes and have a whole folder of them. I used to post them outside my office where I worked. :-)


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I adore Ms Angelou and thank you for such a well-crafted hub to honor her glorious words! Vote up and sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Angelou is certainly inspirational! I like the quotes you have chosen and your comments are fun to read also.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

ChristyWrites--I'm glad you also appreciate her. I love her quotes! Thanks for reading!


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 3 years ago from Southern Clime

"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill..." I Love this poem, and many of Angelou's other works. She is one of my favorite poets.

Thanks for sharing.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

suzettenaples--Thank for those comments. Very nice!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Mine, too, Levertis. I'm glad you appreciate this hub. :-)


jenbeach21 profile image

jenbeach21 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

I love quotes and I am always looking for ones that inspire me. Thanks for sharing this list and my favorite is also, "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.” Pinned and voted up.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

jenbeach--I think the one you mentioned is my favorite, too. I used to hang it outside my office when I worked in a nursing home.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

I've only recently started reading this author and discovered a wealth of knowledge and insight from her work. You've captured some of the great sayings from Maya Angelou here that speak volumes about her. Loved reading this hub today.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Peg--Glad you enjoyed the hub. It's been a while since I've read Maya Angeou. I need to again. Thanks for reading!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 2 years ago from Western NC

I love this! Her quotes, her works - omigosh, she's so inspirational to me! Thank you for this awesome hub! Sharing all over. :)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

CC--I feel the same way--obviously! She contributed so much and influenced so many people! Thanks for sharing this.


HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Wonderful Hub, Virginia. This remarkable woman contributed so much to our humanity. She will be missed but we are a far richer culture because she lived.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

HSchneider, You are so right!!!

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