She was a dancer, a singer, an actress, a memoirist, a poet, an editor, and a director. And she’s the subject of the latest American Masters Special. Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman, and from her earliest days lived her life to the fullest, her achievements stretching out to encompass her full potential. She left her mark on American History.
The special begins with chronicling her childhood: how at the age of three she and her four-year-old brother were put alone on a train, to travel to Stamps, Arkansas, where they would be raised by their grandparents. How she stopped speaking at the age of five, and would not speak again for several years. How she moved back to the city and became pregnant at sixteen.
The special takes a documentary approach, with footage from the movie version of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, based on the memoir that chronicled her early life. Interspersed with this are testimonials from those who knew her: Dihann Carrol, Nikki Giovanni, Louis Gosset Junior, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and her son, among others.
Here we learn the story of her later days, her time as an actress and “The Queen of Calypso.” Her activism allied with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Her time being mentored by celebrated African-American novelist James Baldwin. We learn how she became the first black female member of the director’s guild. In short, we learn the story of all her major accomplishments, culminating with her landmark poem for the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton, “And Still I Rise.”
It’s a fascinating study of a remarkable woman, a study of black history, and American history in general, a study of a woman whose contributions to society crossed genres and borders, both personal and political.
Don’t miss American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise Tuesday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9.