32 Inspirational Maya Angelou Quotes to Motivate and Empower

Last updated on May 4th, 2023 at 03:53 am.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. This article celebrates the wisdom and words of Maya Angelou and is part of our series of great quotes from the most celebrated people from Missouri. Other favorites in our series include the best quotes from Mark Twain and Harry Truman.

Maya Angelou was an American author, poet, and civil rights activist who left a profound impact on literature and culture with her works. Angelou’s quotes are not only interesting but also important, as they provide an insight into her life and her philosophy on various issues.

Maya Angelou quotes

Angelou is probably best known for her autobiographies and poetry. She wrote six autobiographies, most notably “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” She was also a prolific and widely-read poet. “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie,” which was published in 1971 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. 

Maya Angelou’s Life and Legacy

As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  

She served on two presidential commissions – President Gerald Ford appointed her to the Bicentennial Commission and President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Commission for International Woman of the Year.  

Angelou wrote and performed “On The Pulse of the Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. And President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou wrote, produced, directed and starred in productions for stage, film and television. She wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia. She also wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries.  

In 2013 she was the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community. She died in 2014 at the age of 86. 

Maya’s Words Bring Wisdom

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s life is a story of great achievements and profound wisdom. Despite a traumatic childhood that included sexual abuse by her mother’s boyfriend that traumatized her so badly she stopped talking to everyone except her brother for five years.

Maya persevered and found her own path in life. Her words of wisdom are some of the best motivational quotes in American culture, and countless people have found solace and inspiration in her works.

A favorite Maya Angelou quote is “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” This quote speaks to Maya’s lifelong dedication to self-improvement and her belief that there is always room to grow and become a better person.

Maya’s humility and self-respect are evident in this quote, as she acknowledges that even with a lifetime of achievement and countless honorary degrees, there is always more to be learned.

Maya Angelou’s words and life have been an inspiration to countless people, from college professors to bloggers to TV personalities like Oprah Winfrey. Her words of kindness and acts of kindness have made a world of difference.

Maya’s words have a deeper meaning than just beautiful art; they are a reflection of her understanding of the human condition. Her quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” shows her understanding of the sum total of human beings and the importance of empathy and compassion.

Maya Angelou and her Connection to Missouri

Born as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928, Angelou has a deep connection to the state and its history. Missouri has been the birthplace of many remarkable writers, including Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, and T.S. Eliot. However, Maya Angelou’s ties to Missouri go beyond just her place of birth.

Angelou's birthplace was 3130 Hickory Street
Photo Credit: St. Louis City Government

Fun Fact: Bailey, her older brother, gave Angelou her nickname “Maya.”

Angelou’s birthplace was 3130 Hickory Street and is a St. Louis landmark. Growing up in St. Louis during the Great Depression, Angelou had a difficult childhood. Her parents’ separation when she was young forced her to move frequently between St. Louis and Arkansas.

Despite these challenges, Angelou developed a love for literature, which would later influence her career. She attended high school in San Francisco, where she became the first Black streetcar conductor and developed an interest in dance and theater.

After high school, Angelou returned to Missouri and lived with her mother in St. Louis, where she attended the California Labor School and worked as a nightclub singer.

During this time, she became involved in activism and joined the Harlem Writers Guild. Her early years in Missouri influenced her later work, and many of her books, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” draw on her experiences growing up in the state.

In 1960, Angelou moved to Egypt and then to Ghana, where she worked as a freelance writer and became involved in the African independence movement. She returned to the United States in 1965 and settled in New York City, where she became a prominent member of the civil rights movement. She worked closely with leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and continued to use her writing to promote social justice.

Throughout her life, Angelou remained connected to Missouri, and the state recognized her many accomplishments.

In 1992 she was included in the The St. Louis Walk of Fame which honors notable people from St. Louis, Missouri, who made contributions to the culture of the United States.

Maya Angelou’s impact on literature and culture is immeasurable, and her connection to Missouri is an essential part of her story. Her experiences growing up in the state, her involvement in activism, and her recognition by Missouri institutions illustrate the importance of her legacy.

Today, Angelou’s words continue to inspire and uplift readers around the world, making her a true icon of American literature.

I know why the caged bird sings quotes from Maya Angelou

Hoping for the best quote

Maya Angelou’s most famous work is her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Published in 1969, the book is an autobiographical work that follows the life of the author, Maya Angelou, from the age of three to sixteen.

Throughout the book, Angelou recounts the challenges she faced during her childhood, including experiences with rape and racism, which contributed to a sense of instability and trauma in her early years.

It’s also a reminder that we should never give up in the face of adversity, as we can still rise above our challenges and find success. Here are some of the most famous quotes from the book.

1. “The caged bird sings with a fearful trill, of things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

2. Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

3. “Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.”

4. “Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

5. “Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.”

6. “If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.”

7. “To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.”

8. “Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn’t know what I was aware of”.

9. “I had given up some youth for knowledge, but my gain was more valuable than the loss”

More Popular Maya Angelou Quotes

If you don't like something quote by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou quotes are important because they offer a unique perspective on various issues, including race, gender, and identity. Her words are often poignant and profound, and they have the power to inspire and encourage readers to think critically about the world around them.

So, let’s dive into more of Maya Angelou’s famous quotes and explore why they are interesting, smart and important!

10. “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same as making a ‘life.'”

11. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

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

13. “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”

14. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou Inspirational Quotes

Maya Angelou success quote

Many of Maya Angelou’s words suggest that what truly matters in life is not what we accomplish or achieve, but how we treat others and make them feel.

15. “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

16. “Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.”

17. “All great achievements require time.”

Maya Angelou Famous Quotes

Maya Angelou courage quote

18. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

19. “I’ve learned that you can’t go through life with a chip on your shoulder, because sooner or later, it’s going to knock you off balance.”

20. “I’ve learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Maya Angelou Love Quotes 

Maya Angelou love quote

21. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

22. “Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.”

23. “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

24. “Love is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice.”

Maya Angelou Quotes About Life

Maya Angelou life quote

Maya Angelou’s words encourage us to be authentic and true to ourselves, rather than trying to live up to society’s expectations of what success should look like. It’s a powerful message that can help us redefine our goals and priorities, and ultimately lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.

25. “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

26. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

27. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

28. “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

29. “Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.”

30. “Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.”

Maya Angelou Butterfly Quote

31. “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

This quote is a beautiful metaphor for the process of transformation and growth that we all go through in life. Maya Angelou’s words suggest that, just like a butterfly, we must undergo significant changes and challenges in order to emerge as our true, beautiful selves.

This quote is also interesting because it challenges us to look beyond surface-level appearances and appreciate the deeper, more meaningful aspects of life. It encourages us to acknowledge the beauty in the struggles and challenges that we face, and to recognize that true growth and transformation often come from the most difficult experiences.

Maya Angelou Courage Quote

32. “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

This quote by Maya Angelou is a powerful reminder of the essential role that courage plays in our lives. She suggests that without the courage to act on our beliefs, values, and principles, we cannot truly embody the other virtues that we aspire to.

This quote is also interesting because it challenges us to think about the interdependence of different virtues. Maya Angelou suggests that courage is not just a virtue in and of itself, but a foundation for all other virtues. By embodying courage, we are able to access the strength, determination, and perseverance that allow us to live with integrity and purpose.

Ultimately, this quote by Maya Angelou serves as a reminder that we must cultivate courage in order to live fully and authentically, and to make a positive impact on the world around us. It inspires us to embrace our fears and take bold action in pursuit of our goals and dreams, knowing that true courage is the foundation for all other forms of personal and societal progress.

Maya’s Words of Wisdom and Legacy

Maya’s quotes are a reflection of her life experiences, and they provide insight into her personal philosophy and worldview. Her words continue to resonate with people today, and they serve as a testament to her lasting impact on literature and society as a whole.

Maya believed that every human being had the potential to make a world of difference and that each person had the responsibility to do the right thing.

She once said, “I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

Maya’s poetry has been compared to the music of Coltrane and the music of Aretha Franklin. She once said, “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a life.” Maya Angelou’s words remind us to focus on what truly matters in life and to make the most of every precious hour. Maya Angelou’s legacy will continue to inspire and touch the lives of people around the world.

As she once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou’s life and work have taught us how to live a better life and be a better person.

Maya Angelou FAQ

What is Maya Angelou’s most famous quote?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

What is Maya Angelou best known for?

She is known as a poet, dancer, singer, activist, and scholar. Most importantly, Maya Angelou was a world-famous author. 

How many Maya Angelou quarters were made?

300 million Angelou quarters have been minted and are in circulation.

What are your favorite Maya Angelou quotes? Please let us know in the comments!

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