Maya Angelou, a great writer, a great role model


By Ameena Drammeh

Published in Youth Community Report on September 15, 2011

Maya Angelou photo credit:

Assalamulakum. My name is Ameena Drammeh.   I am 14 years old.  My subject is Equality and Gender Issues, and the topic I will be sharing with you today is about a prominent woman in our history.  The reason I chose this topic because she has been an inspiration to me and I hope to be a role model like her someday, Insha’Allah.

From the beginning of time, women have always played an important role in society. They have been our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and caretakers in our lives.  The one we turn to when we are hungry, thirsty, sick, tired, hurt, or in short, catering to our every basic need, but that is only a small part.  Our women today are doctors, lawyers, accountants, surgeons, police officers, teachers and so forth.

Women have proven that they can be indispensable and independent. Women have done many amazing things to help change the world.  They fought for the right to vote, the right to be politicians, to fight in the army, for equal rights and many other things.

This is the story of one such woman.  Her name is Maya Angelou, she was born on April 4th 1928, is an American author and poet and who has been called “America’s most visible black female autobiographer,” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton.  She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focused on her childhood and early adult experiences. By the age of 3, her parents’ marriage ended.  A few years later when she was 8, her mother’s boyfriend raped her.  Before graduating high school, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.  Three weeks after completing school, she gave birth to her son Clyde, who also became a poet.  At times Angelou worked as a prostitute.  In her second autobiography, “Gather together in my name,” she describes how she moved through a series of relationships, occupations, and cities, as she attempted to raise her son without job training or advanced education.

Angelou has been married three times or more.  In the late 1950’s Angelou moved to New York Cityand began to concentrate on her writing career.  The years to follow were some of Angelou’s most productive as a writer and poet.  She worked for a composer, writing for singer Roberta Flack and composing movie scores. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, autobiographies, and poetry, produced plays, and spoke on the university lecture circuit.

In 1993 she recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women to publicly discuss her personal life.  She is highly respected as a spokesperson for black people and women.  Angelou is one of the most honored writers of her generation.  She has been honored by universities, literary organizations, government agencies, and special interest groups.  Angelou has served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, theLincolnmedal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal in 2011. Angelou has been awarded with over thirty honorary degrees.  Today her books are read in many schools acrossAmerica.

A woman who has contributed to our society and helped shaped our world, and fought for what she believed in.  This is a woman that, despite her trials and tribulations, her many hardships and struggles, she was able to endure and persevere. She was able to overcome the numerous challenges thrown her way and went on to become one of America’s most revered women.  One who has made a significant difference in the lives of others. Thank you. Assalamulakum.


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