“Nothing can dim the light which shines within.”

On May 28th, legendary poet, author, and activist, Maya Angelou, passed away at 86-years-old. Leaving behind a legacy much bigger than she had ever hoped, Maya will be remembered for her enchanting words that managed to capture the very essence of her gentle soul, as well as the stamp that she put on history as a strong, African-American woman. The Untitled Magazine would like to honor the life of the late Maya Angelou by taking a look back at her remarkable life.

Born in 1928 as Marguerite Ann Johnson, Maya Angelou grew up under less than desirable situations; working as a fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer, opera coordinator, and journalist, it wouldn’t be until 1969, at the age of 41, that she would find her footing as a successful author and poet. Seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and a career in plays, film, and television became the counterparts to her careers early on in life.

At the age of seventeen, Maya gave birth to her only son, Clyde, which she recounts in her second autobiography Gather Together in My Name as “a single mother’s slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime.” The years following the birth of her son, Maya travelled around the world, making connections with notable figureheads such as Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr, which began her ascent into the world of activism.

In what is arguably her most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya illustrates in a poetic manner (which she would become notable for) how the strength of character and love of literature can help overcome even the darkest of struggles in life. It was while writing Caged Bird that the author began a writing ritual that consisted of placing herself in seclusion within a hotel room for several hours with only legal pads, a bottle of sherry, playing cards, a thesaurus, and the bible. After several hours within the room, Maya would emerge with ten to twelve pages of written material.

“All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival
with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.” 

During her later years, Maya spent time campaigning for the likes of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, penned Mom & Me & Mom which would be the last book in her series of autobiographies, and actively participated in the lecture circuit. Having lead an extraordinary life up until her very last days, Maya gave the world a literary voice that will be celebrated for eternity. We send our deepest condolences and love to the family and friends of the late and unforgettable Maya Angelou.

– Jessica Natale for The Untitled Magazine

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