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Maya Angelou: Author and Poet

Content last modified March 2018


Maya Angelou was an award-winning poet, playwright, professor, theatrical producer, performer, and singer. Her honesty, strength, spirituality, and deep sense of personal pride enable Maya Angelou to write powerfully about her very complex life. The autobiographical books include memories of her childhood, her experiences as a teenage mother, her struggle to break into show business, and her political activism. Her writings have been put in special formats over several decades. The annotations given here are from the most recently produced special format book.

Maya Angelou’s audience was appreciably widened when she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the request of President-elect Clinton for his first inauguration.

This minibibliography includes her autobiographical books, memoirs, and poetry available in braille and digital audiobook formats.

Digital audio titles are also available on the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), which allows eligible patrons to download digital talking books and audio magazines. Patrons who wish to use BARD must have basic computer and Internet skills and a high-speed Internet connection. Some of the digital books are available only by download from BARD.

Most braille titles are available on NLS Web-Braille (available only to registered users of Web-Braille).

Autobiographical Series

These books should be read in the following order.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Memoir by well-known African American poet and college professor Maya Angelou. She describes her childhood and adolescent years in rural Arkansas, in St. Louis, and in San Francisco, and the racial and gender hardships she endured. 1969.
Download DB 57200
Download BR 15665, volume 1

Gather Together in My Name

A continuation of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this memoir begins at the end of World War II. Angelou recalls being an unwed mother at seventeen and becoming a prostitute for an older man who deceived her. Some descriptions of sex and some strong language. 1974.
Download DB 56481
Download BR 16910, volume 1

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas

In this third volume of her memoirs, Angelou covers her twenties. Describes her first relationships with the white world, early motherhood, and her show business career that began when she was a dancer in a San Francisco club. 1976.
Download DB 56941
Download BR 16943, volume 1

The Heart of a Woman

Angelou continues her memoir following Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas. Describes her involvement in the 1960s civil rights movement, sharing recollections of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Recounts her affair with a South African freedom fighter. Strong language. Bestseller 1981.
Download DB 17325
Download BR 16950, volume 1

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

African American poet, actress, civil rights activist, and television producer-director recalls a 1960s pilgrimage to Ghana to connect with her ancestral roots. Describes her sadness and disillusionment at the lack of acceptance among native Ghanaians. Some strong language. 1986.
Download DB 25432
Download BR 17159, volume 1

A Song Flung Up to Heaven

In this sixth volume of her memoirs, Angelou documents her return to America from Ghana in the 1960s to participate in the civil rights movement. Discusses the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., the Watts riots, her friendship with James Baldwin–and their impact on her life. Bestseller. 2002.
Download DB 54044
Download BR 17099, volume 1

Memoir and More

Hallelujah! the Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes

Favorite recipes from Angelou’s southern childhood and penny-pinching days and from her more-recent repertoire of elaborate feasts. Includes anecdotes and stories of dining at home and with her good friends. Bestseller. 2004.
Download DB 59469

Letter to My Daughter

Angelou shares life lessons in the form of reminiscences, poems, and short essays with her thousands of young daughters all over the world. In “Senegal” Angelou commits a social faux pas that her hostess graciously ignores. Bestseller. 2008.
Download DB 67662
Download BR 17865, volume 1

Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

A collection of short essays in which Angelou discusses the value of charity, her faith in God, and the deaths of loved ones. She shares her thoughts on discovering an authentic personal style, the insidious effects of racism, and pregnancy as an experience shared by a woman and her mate. Angelou also includes reminiscences of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas; of being a single mother; and of dancing with Alvin Ailey.
Download BR 09378, volume 1


And Still I Rise

A book of verse celebrating life, love, womanhood, and remembrance. 1978.
Download DB 12970

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

In this collection of more than 150 poems, Angelou celebrates the lives of black people, though many of her poems are universal in their appeal. She uses speech patterns of southern blacks and of the street-wise hip, the currents of blues and jazz, and the rhythm of rap. The collection includes “Still I Rise” and “On the Pulse of Morning.” 1994.
Download DB 42918

I Shall Not be Moved

A collection of poetry on the joys and pathos, pains and triumphs of African American life by the noted author, poet, civil rights activist, and producer-director of the stage and screen. 1990.
Download BR 08559, volume 1

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie ; the Poetry of Maya Angelou

Collection of warm, joyful, raging, and proud poems that reflect the sense of life, love, and loneliness. 1971.
Download DB 28181