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Maya Angelou on Wisdom, Pride and Independence

Maya Angelou is known throughout the world for her literary and artistic works.
Maya Angelou is known throughout the world for her literary and artistic works.

Bestselling author, poet, playwright and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is considered to be among the greatest writers alive today. With twelve bestselling titles to her credit, Angelou is known throughout the world for messages of hope that transcend race and class.

The poet recalls when she first realized she was proud to be an American, despite a childhood that saw cruelty toward people who looked like her. While attending her middle school graduation at a segregated Arkansas middle school, the audience sang the National Anthem. The American musical standard was then followed by a seamless transition into "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem. The assembly sang both songs in one spirit of pride "without thinking about it," she says.

The soon-to-be octogenarian still embraces that pride, perhaps now stronger than ever. She shares her thoughts on how independence should be interpreted:

"I propose that to be independent, one has got to see the whole picture...see the past, and try to see it without prejudice."

Maya Angelou says she will celebrate America's 231st year of independence with her family, enjoying the company of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"We will eat a lot of chicken, and some hot dogs and we'll sing some songs..."

Audio of the full interview is available by clicking "Listen" button in the upper left-hand corner of this page."

Web material written and produced by Lee Hill.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.