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AP Literature: Poetry: Angelou, Maya

Poet

Bio

An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou has had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood's first female black director, but is most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet.

As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. By 1975, wrote Carol E. Neubauer in Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, "Angelou had become recognized not only as a spokesperson for blacks and women, but also for all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States." 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. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees. Poetry Foundation

Poem: Harlem Hopscotch

Harlem Hopscotch

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One foot down, then hop! It's hot.
          Good things for the ones that's got.
Another jump, now to the left.
          Everybody for hisself.
 
In the air, now both feet down.
         Since you black, don't stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
          Curse and cry and then jump two.
 
All the people out of work,
         Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
          That's what hopping's all about.
 
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won.

Poem: Awakening in New York

Awaking in New York

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Curtains forcing their will   
against the wind, 
children sleep, 
exchanging dreams with   
seraphim. The city 
drags itself awake on   
subway straps; and 
I, an alarm, awake as a   
rumor of war, 
lie stretching into dawn,   
unasked and unheeded.
 

Work