Despite being dispersed throughout the world, students were united in grief over the loss of Maya Angelou, an internationally renowned writer and poet whose work has influenced several generations.
Angelou is best known for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” her autobiography chronicling the early years of her life.
She also recited one of her poems, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, becoming the first African-American and the first woman to do so.
In 2011, Angelou was one of 15 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a testament to her numerous successes as a Grammy and Tony nominated singer and dancer, professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University and civil rights activist who worked alongside Malcolm X and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Angelou holds a special place here at Duke. First invited to speak to students in 1989 as part of a program called “A Vision for Duke,” Angelou has taken the opportunity to address students about education and racial issues among other topics.
Her yearly speeches often reminded students that they “have all been paid for,” that the suffering of students’ forbearers made their education at Duke possible.
“I really have become Maya Angelou because of the rainbows in my clouds—the people who didn’t have to shine their lights on my path but chose to,” she explained in her 2012 speech.
Words—no matter how eloquent—will never be able to express the gratitude the student body owes to Maya Angelou, for her life and legacy will last indefinitely.
Editor’s Note: This editorial was written by members of staff rather than The Chronicle’s independent editorial board.