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.
Maya Angelou (b.1928) memoirist, poet, activist
http://www.mayaangelou.com/LongBio.html autobiographies and books from her website
Angelou has had a long and varied career, holding jobs such as fry cook,
dancer, actress, journalist, educator, television producer, and film director.
She was a member of the Harlem
Writers Guild in the late 1950s. She was active in the Civil
Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s Southern
Christian Leadership Conference. Angelou has been highly honored for her
body of work, including being awarded over 30 honorary degrees and the
nomination of a Pulitzer Prize for her
1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.
Since the 1990s, she has had a busy career on the lecture circuit, making about
80 appearances a year. Since 1991, Angelou has taught at Wake Forest University
in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as recipient of the first lifetime Reynolds
Professorship of American Studies. In 1993, she recited her poem "On the Pulse of
Morning" at President Bill Clinton's
inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert
Frost at John F. Kennedy's
inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running
record (two years) on The New York Times
Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.
With the publication of I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the
first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life.
She became recognized and highly respected as a spokesperson for blacks and
women. Angelou's use of fiction-writing techniques often result in the placement
of her books into the genre of autobiographical
fiction, but they are better characterized as autobiographies. Angelou has
made a deliberate attempt through her work to challenge the common structure of
the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Although her
books have been used extensively in the classroom, they have also been
challenged or banned in schools and libraries. Her books and poetry have covered
themes such as identity, family, and racism.
A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth
Young women, young men of color, we add our voices to the voices of your ancestors who speak to you over ancient seas and across impossible mountain tops.
Come up from the gloom of national neglect, you have already been paid for.
Come out of the shadow of irrational prejudice, you owe
no racial debt to history.
The blood of our bodies and the prayers of our souls have bought you a future
free from shame and bright beyond the telling of it.
We pledge ourselves and our resources to seek for you clean and well-furnished schools, safe and non-threatening streets, employment which makes use of your talents, but does not degrade your dignity.
You are the best we have.
You are all we have.
You are what we have become.
We pledge you our whole hearts from this day forward.