50 Positive Maya Angelou Quotes

Last updated on Apr 10th, 2017

50 Positive Maya Angelou Quotes

Prolific American author Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou attended the California Labor School in San Francisco and studied dance and drama.

Maya Angelou is best known by the first of her seven autobiographies, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, and for the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie”. Autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller of an African-American woman. In 1993, she recited her famous poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

During her lifetime, she published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry.

With over 50 honorary degrees, Maya Angelou became a celebrated poet, author, playwright, civil rights activist, speaker, actress and filmmaker. The world will remember her as one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time.


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 (2009)


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 (2011)


It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.Unknown source


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.Interview from the April 2011 edition of O, the Oprah Magazine (2011)


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)


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.As quoted by Best of O, the Oprah Magazine (2007)


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


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)


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.As quoted by Best of O, the Oprah Magazine (2007)


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 Interviewed by Oprah in 2013


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 Interviewed by Poet and Historian (January 22, 1997)


We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.An Interview With Maya Angelou, Psychology Today ( February 17, 2009)


Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.As quoted in USA Today (March 5, 1988)


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


Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.Unknown source


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.Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (1995)


History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.The New York Times (January 21, 1993)


It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.Maya Angelou Interviewed by Oprah in 2013


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


There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)


Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (1995)


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


All great achievements require time.Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (1995)


Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.Unknown source


The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.'Why We Write', interviewed by Vikas Shah for Thought Economics


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.Interviewed by Oprah (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.An Interview With Maya Angelou, Psychology Today (February 17, 2009)


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)


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.Interview in Girl About Town (October 13, 1986)


I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.Interview with the Academy of Achievement (1990)


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


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


You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.As quoted in Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989) by Jeffrey M. Elliot


If more Africans had eaten missionaries, the continent would be in better shape.The Heart of a Woman (1981)


Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 1, by Claudia Tate (1983).


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)


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)


Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.Unknown source


Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)


Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.Interview in Black Scholar (New York, January-February 1977)


There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.Interview in Black Scholar (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.Quoted in New York Times (April 16, 1972)


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.Unknown source


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


Life loves the liver of it.Interview in Black Scholar (New York, January-February 1977)


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.In Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989)


A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.Interview with Dr. Maya Angelou by Michael Limnios (June 1, 2013)


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


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)


Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.Letter to My Daughter (2009)