Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou
Airdate May 22, 2007
Curriculum English
Social Studies

Maya Angelou is a BrainPOP English/Social Studies video launched on May 22, 2007.




Errors Edit

  • When Tim mentions one of Maya Angelou's autobiographical novels called Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, he left out the word "Just" when he pronounced it. Plus, in the closed captions, the word "Diiie" has been spelled to "Die" with just one letter I instead of three letter I's.



In DepthEdit


Maya Angelou was only the second poet asked to read at a presidential inauguration. The first was Robert Frost, who read at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Here is some of what Angelou read:

"Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

For this bright morning dawning for you."

"History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,

Need not be lived again.

Lift up you eyes upon

The day breaking for you.

Give birth again

To the dream.

Women, children, men,

Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into

The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts.

Each new hour holds new chances

For new beginnings."

Did you KnowEdit


Maya Angelou won dozens of prestigious awards and honors over the course of her lifetime. Here is just a sampling!

  • Langston Hughes Medal (1991): Goes to an influential African-American writer.
  • Horatio Alger Award (1992): Honors Americans who achieve outstanding feats despite adversity.
  • Grammy Award (1993): Best Spoken Word Album, for her recording of “On the Pulse of Morning”.
  • Spingarn Medal (1994): For outstanding achievement by an African American.
  • National Medal of Arts (2000): Honors contributions to American arts.
  • Mother Theresa Award (2006): Recognizes spiritual accomplishments.
  • Gracie Award (2008): Honors outstanding contributions to the television industry.
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010): The highest American civilian honor, awarded by President Barack Obama.
  • Honorary degrees: Angelou held honorary degrees from more than 30 colleges and universities!

Real LifeEdit


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a classic work of literature, and yet it isn’t always welcome in schools. In fact, according to the American Library Association, people try to ban it from school libraries so often that, for the period of time from 1990 to 2000, it was the third most challenged book!

Why do people object to it? Well, it has some disturbing racist language and also includes some graphic scenes of child abuse. Some people think that children shouldn’t be exposed to such disturbing images and language.

So why do other people think we should read it despite its unsettling content? Well, it’s a very important work not only of African-American literature, but literature as a whole. Also, many people point to the fact that you can’t erase the terrible periods of American history, and that it’s important for today’s students to grapple with unpleasant subjects in order to ensure that they don’t happen again.

What do you think?


Alvin Ailey

Among her other successes, Maya Angelou had a career as a dancer. Not only did she study modern dance with Martha Graham, one of the pioneers of American modern dance, she also worked with a guy named Alvin Ailey.

Ailey (pictured) was an African-American dancer and choreographer who, frustrated by the lack of roles available to African Americans, founded his own dance company in 1958. Although he integrated the company in 1963, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is still committed to its goal of expressing the unique culture of African Americans.

Ailey’s 1960 work, Revelations, is a classic masterpiece of American modern dance, based on Ailey’s childhood experience with African-American religious communities. Ailey went on to create close to 80 ballets in his lifetime, and he became a household name in the world of dance. In 1988, he was given a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Ailey died the following year, at age 58.

FYI ComicEdit


Primary SourceEdit

On the Pulse of Morning.

Maya Angelou's recitation of "On the Pulse of Morning," U.S. Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 1993. National Archives.

Transcript Edit

A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon. The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They all hear The speaking of the Tree.

They hear the first and last of every Tree Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers- desperate for gain, Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot... You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours- your Passages have been paid. 

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.

Give birth again To the dream.

Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.

Newslea Edit

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