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Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above. O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe. There's never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free. Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek— And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one's own greed! I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean— Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years. Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That's made America the land it has become.

O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home— For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore, And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa's strand I came To build a "homeland of the free. Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay?


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For all the dreams we've dreamed And all the songs we've sung And all the hopes we've held And all the flags we've hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay— Except the dream that's almost dead today. O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME— Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose— The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!

Knopf, Inc. Used with permission.


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At the age of 16, she became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde who later changed his name to Guy Johnson. In , Angelou married Tosh Angelos, a Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother. Ailey and Angelou formed a dance team, calling themselves "Al and Rita", and performed modern dance at fraternal black organizations throughout San Francisco, but never became successful.

After Angelou's marriage ended in , she danced professionally in clubs around San Francisco, including the nightclub the Purple Onion , where she sang and danced to calypso music.

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It was a "distinctive name" [32] that set her apart and captured the feel of her calypso dance performances. During and , Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She began her practice of learning the language of every country she visited, and in a few years she gained proficiency in several languages. Angelou met novelist John Oliver Killens in and, at his urging, moved to New York to concentrate on her writing career.

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According to scholar Lyman B. Hagen, her contributions to civil rights as a fundraiser and SCLC organizer were successful and "eminently effective". She became an administrator at the University of Ghana , and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She performed in a revival of The Blacks in Geneva and Berlin.

In Accra, she became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early s. Devastated and adrift, she joined her brother in Hawaii, where she resumed her singing career. She moved back to Los Angeles to focus on her writing career. Working as a market researcher in Watts , Angelou witnessed the riots in the summer of She acted in and wrote plays, and returned to New York in She met her lifelong friend Rosa Guy and renewed her friendship with James Baldwin , whom she had met in Paris in the s and called "my brother", during this time.

In , Martin Luther King Jr. She agreed, but "postpones again", [38] and in what Gillespie calls "a macabre twist of fate", [52] he was assassinated on her 40th birthday April 4. As Gillespie states, "If was a year of great pain, loss, and sadness, it was also the year when America first witnessed the breadth and depth of Maya Angelou's spirit and creative genius". Also in , inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer , and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis , she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , published in This brought her international recognition and acclaim.

Angelou's Georgia, Georgia , produced by a Swedish film company and filmed in Sweden, the first screenplay written by a black woman, [57] was released in She also wrote the film's soundtrack, despite having very little additional input in the filming of the movie. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, documentaries, autobiographies, and poetry, produced plays, and was named visiting professor at several colleges and universities.

She was "a reluctant actor", [62] and was nominated for a Tony Award in for her role in Look Away. In , Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots. She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world. She returned to the southern United States in because she felt she had to come to terms with her past there and, despite having no bachelor's degree, accepted the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem , North Carolina, where she was one of a few full-time African-American professors.

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Her final speaking engagement at the university was in late In , Angelou recited her poem " On the Pulse of Morning " at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton , becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy 's inauguration in Angelou achieved her goal of directing a feature film in , Down in the Delta , which featured actors such as Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. The album was responsible for three of Angelou's only Billboard chart appearances.

Angelou campaigned for the Democratic Party in the presidential primaries , giving her public support to Hillary Clinton. After Obama's inauguration, she stated, "We are growing up beyond the idiocies of racism and sexism. In late , Angelou donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Memorial in Washington, D. She spoke out in opposition to a paraphrase of a quotation by King that appeared on the memorial, saying, "The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit", [90] and demanded that it be changed. Eventually, the paraphrase was removed. Maya Angelou, [93]. Maya Angelou, [94]. Maya Angelou, [95].

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Evidence suggests that Angelou was partially descended from the Mende people of West Africa. Savin forced Lee to sign a false statement accusing another man of being the father of her child.

After Savin was indicted for forcing Lee to commit perjury, and despite the discovery that Savin was the father, a jury found him not guilty. Lee was sent to the Clinton County poorhouse in Missouri with her daughter, Marguerite Baxter, who became Angelou's grandmother.

Angelou described Lee as "that poor little Black girl, physically and mentally bruised". The details of Angelou's life described in her seven autobiographies and in numerous interviews, speeches, and articles tended to be inconsistent. Critic Mary Jane Lupton has explained that when Angelou spoke about her life, she did so eloquently but informally and "with no time chart in front of her".

Angelou held many jobs, including some in the sex trade , working as a prostitute and madame for lesbians, as she described in her second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name. In a interview, Angelou said, "I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, 'I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet. My mom or dad never did anything wrong. Angelou had one son, Guy, whose birth she described in her first autobiography; one grandson, two great-grandchildren, [] and, according to Gillespie, a large group of friends and extended family.

In , the gossip website TMZ erroneously reported that Angelou had been hospitalized in Los Angeles when she was alive and well in St.

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Louis, which resulted in rumors of her death and, according to Angelou, concern among her friends and family worldwide. Angelou" by people outside of her family and close friends.

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She owned two homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a "lordly brownstone" [11] in Harlem , which was purchased in [] and was full of her "growing library" [] of books she collected throughout her life, artwork collected over the span of many decades, and well-stocked kitchens. Guardian writer Gary Younge reported that in Angelou's Harlem home were several African wall hangings and her collection of paintings, including ones of several jazz trumpeters, a watercolor of Rosa Parks , and a Faith Ringgold work titled "Maya's Quilt Of Life".