"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." Maya Angelou
The Novant Health Maya Angelou Women’s Health & Wellness Center at Novant Health Forsyth
Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, is dedicated to one of the most renowned and
influential voices of our time. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou
is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer,
actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist.
Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou was
raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. In Stamps, she experienced the
brutality of racial discrimination, but she also absorbed the unshakable faith
and values of traditional African-American family, community, and culture.
As a teenager, Dr. Angelou’s love for the arts won her a
scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14,
she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable
car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy,
a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son
by working as a waitress and cook; however her passion for music, dance,
performance, and poetry would soon take center stage.
In 1954 and 1955, Dr. Angelou toured Europe with a production of
the opera Porgy and Bess. She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin Ailey on television variety shows and, in
1957, recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she
joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in the historic Off-Broadway production
of Jean Genet's The Blacks and
wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom.
In 1960, Dr. Angelou moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she served as
editor of the English language weekly The Arab Observer.
The next year, she moved to Ghana, where she taught at the University of
Ghana's School of Music and Drama, worked as feature editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times.
During her years abroad, Dr. Angelou read and studied voraciously,
mastering French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language Fanti.
While in Ghana, she met with Malcolm
X and, in 1964, returned to
America to help him build his new Organization of African American Unity.
Shortly after her arrival in the United States, Malcolm X was
assassinated, and the organization dissolved. Soon after Malcolm X's
assassination, Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., asked Dr. Angelou to
serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference. King's assassination, falling on her birthday
in 1968, left her devastated.
With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the
book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published to international acclaim
and enormous popular success. The list of her published verse, non-fiction, and
fiction now includes more than 30 bestselling titles.
A trailblazer in film and television, Dr. Angelou wrote the
screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia.
Her script, the first by an African American woman ever to be filmed, was
nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
She continues to appear on television and in films, including the
landmark television adaptation of Alex
Haley's Roots (1977)
and John Singleton's Poetic Justice (1993).
In 1996, she directed her first feature film, Down in the Delta.
In 2008, she composed poetry for and narrated the award-winning documentary The Black Candle,
directed by M.K. Asante.
Dr. Angelou has served on two presidential committees, was awarded
the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and has
received three Grammy Awards. President Clinton requested that she compose a
poem to read at his inauguration in 1993. Dr. Angelou's reading of her poem,
entitled "On the Pulse of
the Morning," was broadcast
live around the world.
Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees and is the Reynolds
Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Dr. Angelou’s words and actions continue to stir
our souls, energize our bodies, liberate our minds and heal our hearts.