50 Positive Maya Angelou Quotes

Last updated on Apr 4th, 2023

50 Positive Maya Angelou Quotes

Maya Angelou (born April 4, 1928, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. – died May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.), full name Marguerite Annie Johnson, was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She is best known for her unique autobiographical writing style and works that explore the themes of race, identity, and gender.

Key Takeaways

  • Beside seven autobiographies, three essays, and several books of poetry, Maya Angelou wrote many plays, movies, and television shows.
  • Her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969; TV movie 1979), made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller of an African-American woman.
  • Angelou became one of the first African American women to have a screenplay produced as a feature film (Georgia, Georgia).
  • In 1993, Angelou recited her famous poem, On the Pulse of Morning, at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. She was the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost in 1961.
  • Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Table of Contents
  1. Famous Maya Angelou Quotes
  2. Maya Angelou Quotes about Life
  3. Maya Angelou Quotes about Love
  4. Maya Angelou Inspirational Quotes
  5. Positive Maya Angelou Quotes
  6. Maya Angelou Quotes on Strength and Forgiveness
  7. Misattributed Maya Angelou Quotes
  8. Unsourced Maya Angelou Quotes
  9. Maya Angelou FAQs

Famous Maya Angelou Quotes

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. - Maya Angelou (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now Quotes)
1

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Page 124

You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive. - Maya Angelou Quotes
1

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.From the April 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

What is a fear of living? It's being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself - for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don't know what you're here to do, then just do some good. - Maya Angelou Quotes
3

What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.From the October 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good. - Maya Angelou Quotes
4

I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.From the October 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air; we all have it or none of us has it. That is the truth of it. - Maya Angelou Quotes
5

It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air; we all have it or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.America's Renaissance Woman, Academy of Achievement Interview (January 22, 1997)

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently. - Maya Angelou (Even the Stars Look Lonesome Quotes)
6

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997), Page 132

Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible. - Maya Angelou (All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes Quotes)
7

Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), Page 155

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. - Maya Angelou (On the Pulse of Morning Quotes)
8

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.Maya Angelou: 'On the Pulse of Morning', The New York Times (January 21, 1993)

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
9

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.A Conversation between Rosa Guy and Maya Angelou (1988)

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
10

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 15

Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
11

Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 36

I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me "I love you."... There is an African saying which is: "Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt." - Maya Angelou Quotes
12

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me “I love you.”… There is an African saying which is: “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture, 16th-annual Families Alive Conference, Weber State University (May 8, 1997)

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. - Maya Angelou Quotes
13

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.Interview with Oprah for Angelou's 70th birthday (April 5, 1998)

If we accept being talked to any kind of a way, then we are telling ourselves we are not quite worth the best. And if we have the effrontery to talk to anybody with less than courtesy, we tell ourselves and the world we are not very intelligent. - Maya Angelou Quotes
14

If we accept being talked to any kind of a way, then we are telling ourselves we are not quite worth the best. And if we have the effrontery to talk to anybody with less than courtesy, we tell ourselves and the world we are not very intelligent.An Interview With Maya Angelou, Psychology Today (February 17, 2009)

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a b**ch. You've got to go out and kick ass. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
15

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a b**ch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.Kicking Ass by Aminatta Forna, in Girl About Town Magazine (October 13, 1986)

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
16

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 34

You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
17

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.It's the Thought that Counts by Mary Ardito, in Bell Telephone Magazine (1982)

If more Africans had eaten more missionaries, the Continent would be in better shape. - Maya Angelou (The Heart of a Woman Quotes)
18

If more Africans had eaten more missionaries, the Continent would be in better shape.The Heart of a Woman (1981), Chapter 8, Page 113

Talent is like electricity. We don't understand electricity. We use it. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
19

Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.Black Women Writers at Work by Claudia Tate (New York: Continuum, 1983)

Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable. - Maya Angelou (Gather Together in My Name Quotes)
20

Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.Gather Together in My Name (1974), Chapter 6, Page 21

A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face. - Maya Angelou (Letter to My Daughter Quotes)
21

A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.Letter to My Daughter (2008), Chapter 12. Bob & Decca, Page 75

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. - Maya Angelou Quotes
22

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou (2014), Page 97

Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
23

Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.The Black Scholar Interviews Maya Angelou by Robert Chrisman (New York, January-February 1977)

No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
24

No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.Maya Angelou: Resolving the Past, Embracing the Future by Esther Hill (The Student, Spring 1981)

The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
25

The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.Work in Progress: Maya Angelou by Sheila Weller (Intellectual Digest, June 1973)

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Money and power can liberate only if they are used to do so. They can imprison and inhibit more finally than barred windows and iron chains. - Maya Angelou (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now Quotes)
26

Money and power can liberate only if they are used to do so. They can imprison and inhibit more finally than barred windows and iron chains.Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Page 66

The needs of a society determine its ethics. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
27

The needs of a society determine its ethics.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 29

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. - Maya Angelou (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now Quotes)
28

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Page 12

Maya Angelou Quotes about Life

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 Quotes
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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.Angelou's Facebook (July 4, 2011)

When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time. - Maya Angelou Quotes
30

When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.As quoted by Oprah Winfrey - Oprah's Thank You Game

Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art. - Maya Angelou (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now Quotes)
31

Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Page 66

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. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
32

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.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 34

There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
33

There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.The Black Scholar Interviews Maya Angelou by Robert Chrisman (New York, January-February 1977)

Life loves the liver of it. - Maya Angelou (Conversations with Maya Angelou Quotes)
34

Life loves the liver of it.The Black Scholar Interviews Maya Angelou by Robert Chrisman (New York, January-February 1977)

Maya Angelou Quotes about Love

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. - Maya Angelou Quotes
35

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.Angelou's Facebook (January 11, 2013)

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return. - Maya Angelou Quotes
36

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.As quoted by JET (August 25, 1986)

In the flush of love's light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free. - Maya Angelou Quotes
37

In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time. - Maya Angelou (The Heart of a Woman Quotes)
38

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.The Heart of a Woman (1981), Chapter 13, Page 186

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. - Maya Angelou (Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas Quotes)
39

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976), Chapter 5, Page 41

Maya Angelou Inspirational Quotes

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. - Maya Angelou (Letter to My Daughter Quotes)
40

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.Letter to My Daughter (2008), Page xii

We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. - Maya Angelou Quotes
41

We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.An Interview With Maya Angelou by George Plimpton (Summer 1990)

What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. - Maya Angelou (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now Quotes)
42

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Page 87

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. - Maya Angelou Quotes
43

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou (2014), Page 84

Positive Maya Angelou Quotes

You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
44

You don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 36

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 Quotes
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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.Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou (2014), Page 41

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. - Maya Angelou (Letter to My Daughter Quotes)
46

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.Letter to My Daughter (2008), Page xii

Maya Angelou Quotes on Strength and Forgiveness

You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise. - Maya Angelou (And Still I Rise Quotes)
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You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.And Still I Rise (1978), Page 41

The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education. - Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Quotes)
48

The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Chapter 29

You can't forgive without loving. And I don't mean sentimentality. I don't mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, "I forgive. I'm finished with it." - Maya Angelou Quotes
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You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, “I forgive. I’m finished with it.”From the May 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. - Maya Angelou Quotes
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It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.From the May 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

Misattributed Maya Angelou Quotes

1

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.Zora Neale Hurston (More info)

2

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.Joan Walsh Anglund (More info)

Unsourced Maya Angelou Quotes

1

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.No source

2

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

3

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.No source

4

The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.No source

5

A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.No source

Maya Angelou FAQs

What is Maya Angelou most famously known for?

Maya Angelou is most famously known for her poetry, memoirs, and the autobiographical work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).

What is Maya Angelou's most famous quote?

Maya Angelou's most famous quote is: "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."

What is Maya Angelou's most empowering quote?

Maya Angelou's most empowering quote is: "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise."