The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 2, 2014

Our View: Loss of a phenomenal woman

Why it matters: Maya Angelou lived a full life giving a strong, poetic voice to our time.

The child who spent some of her life without a voice grew up to be a woman with a voice few will forget.

The deep, majestic timbre of poet Maya Angelou may have been silenced by her death Wednesday at age 86, but her voice will resonate deep in the souls of everyone who was lucky enough to hear her, including those who attended her talk years ago at Minnesota State University.

Even if you hadn’t heard of Angelou before 1993, you couldn’t help but pay attention as she read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. The work made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller.

Angelou held her head high in everything she took on from dancing to writing to teaching. Her 1970 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was about her experience of not talking for years as a child after being raped. The book made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success, according to The Associated Press.

She never limited herself, publishing poetry, advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories as well as writing music, plays and screenplays. She acted, directed and was politically active, including in the civil rights movement. She knew both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Angelou was a multi-talented woman who later discovered her passion for teaching.

Angelou stood tall not only in physical stature but as a role model for girls and women everywhere — offering evidence of what they can accomplish and, just as importantly, to be proud of whatever it is they do accomplish.

Presidents honored her with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Even so, she didn’t write for important men in high places. She wrote for everyday folks.

The people will not forget the people’s poet.

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