“When we feel we have lost hope, we may find inspiration in the words and deeds of others…Using metaphors for hope seems appropriate, as the concept of hope is difficult to describe. It is deeper than simple optimism, and more mysterious, delicate, and elusive…Hope can foster determination and grit—the ability to bounce back and to remain determined despite failures and setbacks—when we make daily efforts to change and improve what we can control.” poetryfoundation.org
Angelou was also a prolific and widely-read poet, and her poetry has often been lauded more for its depictions of Black beauty, the strength of women, and the human spirit; criticizing the Vietnam War; and demanding social justice. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. poetryfoundation.org/poets/maya-angelou
One way Angelou coped following King’s death was to write. Her breakthrough memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969. Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem “Still I Rise” was a message of liberation and survival.
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”