One of the most consequential and influential bards of the 20th century, Maya Angelou shattered barriers and penned the words that gave voice to the Black experience in America, the feminist movement, and a whole generation raised on her poems, essays, and memoirs. In fact, Angelou’s writing and sayings are so ubiquitous you may recognize many of her wise quotes from other roundups of inspirational and motivational quotes about love, loss, life, and courage.
Angelou’s legacy as an award-winning poet, journalist, screenwriter, and Civil Rights activist is matched only by the richness of her life before her passing in 2014. Here are some things we bet you didn’t know about her: Angelou was only the second poet to speak at a Presidential inauguration for Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993; she was the screenwriter of the film Georgia, Georgia and directed 1998’s Down in the Delta; she was a polyglot and spoke six languages; and she was the first Black woman to conduct a cable car in San Francisco back when she was 16 years old.
For die-hard fans and for newbies getting their first taste of this icon, we have gone ahead and rounded up some of Angelou’s most famous quotes in the hopes their wisdom and depth leaves a mark like she did.
1. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
2. “We need much less than we think we need.” 3. “Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.” 4. “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” 5. “I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” 6. “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?” 7. “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” 8. “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” 9. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” 10. “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.” 11. “Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” 12. “A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” 13. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” 14. “If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” 15. “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” 16. “I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.” 17. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” 18. “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” 19. “We are only as blind as we want to be.” 20. “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” 21. “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” 22. “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” 23. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.” 24. “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.” 25. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” 26. “I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.” 27. “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” 28. “I got my own back.” 29. “Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.” 30. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 31. “I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.” 32. “Nothing will work unless you do.” 33. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” 34. “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” 35. “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” 36. “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” 37. “The main thing is to be in love with the search for truth.” 38. “Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.” 39. “Whenever we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” 40. “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” 41. “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” 42. “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.'” 43. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” 44. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” 45. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” 46. “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” 47. “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”
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