10 memorable quotes from Maya Angelou

The late poet laureate had a sublime gift for communication born of silent suffering. Here are insights that will endure as just a small part of her extraordinary legacy.

When word spread that renowned author, poet, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou had died at age 86, tributes to her life poured onto social media. Many on Twitter shared their favorite quotes.

Traditional media provided background on Dr. Angelou’s early life. Reporter Emma Brown writes in The Washington Post:

“As a child growing up in the Jim Crow South, Maya Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend; as a young woman, she worked briefly as a brothel madam and a prostitute. From those roots in powerlessness and violence, she rose to international recognition as a writer known for her frank chronicles of personal history and a performer instantly identified by her regal presence and rich, honeyed voice.”

Here are 10 quotes from Dr. Angelou, a communicator who leaves a void in American culture, and the world.

1. “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”

2. “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”

3. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

4. “The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.”

5. “All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

6. “The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”

7. “I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”

8. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

9. “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

10. “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”

Oprah Winfrey, who has been mentored by Dr. Angelou from the time they met in Baltimore in the 1980s, describes the poet laureate as her “sister friend.”

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