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My Generation

Wise Words From Maya Angelou

Unlocking the fascinating life of an African American storyteller

Maya Angelou's spirit-lifting powers of observation have guided both her professional and personal life. But this "woman of words" endured a nearly soul-shattering childhood.

See also: Philip Levine, America's poetry man.

Author, philanthropist, teacher, and poet Dr. Maya Angelou reflects on her life and wisdom.

Author, teacher and poet Maya Angelou reflects on her life and wisdom. — Patrick Schnieder/Screengrab courtesy AARP Broadcast

Raised in Missouri and Arkansas, Angelo survived rape and stopped speaking for six years. Her frustrated family sent her to live with her grandmother, who luckily offered an astounding prediction. "When you and the good Lord get ready, sister, you gon' be a teacher. You gon' teach all over this world."

And that's exactly what she did, teaching poetry and literature, publishing more than 30 books (including 12 best-sellers) and even acting and directing. In 1993, Angelou became the second poet in U.S. history to recite original work at a presidential inauguration.

My Generation recently had the opportunity to sit down with this extraordinary teacher, civil rights and fearless storyteller.

You may also like: Eleanor Ross Taylor, poetic acclaim at 90.

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