Maya Angelou was an American poet, author and civil rights activist who had a tremendous impact on the world. She has been praised by many people and has been honored with numerous awards and recognition, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama in 2011. It is widely known that Maya had a son, Guy Johnson, and that he was her only child, with her first marriage to a Greek sailor, Tosh Angelos.
Guy was born in 1947 and he was an only child. This was a result of Maya’s life decisions, as she stated “I have tried, periodically, to find the father of my son, Guy Johnson, and explain to him the wonderful things he has missed. What he should have seen, experienced, acquired, and endowed. But I have not yet been able to locate him.”
Her son, who was a noted journalist and professor of English & comparative literature at Harvard University, also made an impact within the literary realm. He wrote several books, including “The Great Escalator in the Sky”, which discussed the cultural impact of migration in the United States. Guy co-edited a few of his mother’s most critically acclaimed volumes.
Maya and Guy had a close relationship and she gave him financial and emotional support to aid his success. Although Maya had a successful career, she prioritized her son’s well-being, making sure that he was placed in a suitable environment in order to foster growth. Paying attention to education was important to Maya, as she firmly believed in its ability to work towards social equality.
In memory of him, she later called her memoir “Mom & Me & Mom”, a tribute to her mother and son. Maya believed that the relationship between a mother and a son was unbreakable and she compared it as “Lifting a paw of a lion and expecting a hand”. In addition, her last book was “Mom & Me & Mom”, which poetically discussed her two mother figures.
Their Relationship Through Co-Writing
Maya and Guy spent a lot of time together, particularly during the later years of her life. They went on to co-author the book, “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem’. This was a poem about peace, which was first read at The White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 2005. Despite their hectic schedules, co-writing this book was an act of collaboration between Maya and Guy and showed the complete understanding amongst each other.
In addition to collaborating on a work together, Maya and Guy provided each other with invaluable wisdom. Maya said, “No one can write his or her life story perfectly. But you can make the editing process more accurate and enlightening through self-knowledge.” Similarly, Guy stated, “That’s a tough line to follow—the road less traveled—but it’s worth a shot…I guess I am living proof of that.”
It was clear that Maya, and Guy’s relationship was bursting with tenderness and understanding, which was also evident in the letter Maya wrote to Guy as he was about to graduate college. She offered wisdom and advice, as well as her admiration, “You must stand tall. Be sure of yourself, compactly strong. You must be a black man first, all else comes later… Be the best of whatever you are”.
The Legacy Maya Left Behind
Maya lived an unforgettable life of resilience, grace and achievement and passed away in 2014. Since then, her legacy has continued to be hailed by many. The Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity that was developed by her family, is dedicated to her legacy and strives to achieve health equity for all. Maya’s vision for change, gender and racial equality is embedded within the organization’s mission.
In addition to this, many of Maya’s works and expressions continue to be loved and interpreted by readers. Her most renowned piece, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, is a admired work and celebrated piece of literature. It has been said “In her writing as in her life, Maya is an inspiration.”
Maya’s influence has also been recognized by many institutions and organizations, who have honored her with awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous of honorary degrees. In addition, her work continues to be studied in classrooms, in various countries around the world, giving access to different generations.
Raising a Child Solely
Maya Angelou had many accomplishments in her lifetime, including that of raising a son, Guy Johnson as a single parent. At such a time particularly in the 1940s, women were expected to marry and look after their children with the help of a partner. It was a challenge for her to make decisions on behalf of Guy and to drive his education and career path.
As the mother of a single child, Maya more was dedicated to her son, considering all angles and making sure he had all he needed to realize his potential. Maya moved with her son to numerous places, often taking odd jobs in order to ensure that Guy had a comfortable home, access to quality education and the resources needed to do well.
Maya taught Guy the value of determination, leading by example and persevering through life’s challenges. When Guy attended school, his mother encouraged him to research and question in order to arm him with knowledge. She wanted him to think for himself and to understand the importance of pursuing education.
There’s no doubt that Maya had a major impact on her son’s life. Guy acquired the independence and drive to become the great man he was, which was largely due to the example his mother set and the values she instilled in him.
A Mother’s Knowledge, Love and Support
It is undisputable that Maya devoted her life to her son. Even in her darkest moments, her son was her light and her son’s successes was also her own success. Maya offered her thoughts and opinion, wisdom and guidance to her son in all situations; never did she shy away from offering a different perspective or pressing him to think more broadly.
Maya supported Guy through his choices to pursue the writing trade and made sure he had a space where he was free to express himself. But she wasn’t just a source of love and comfort, Maya highly invested in Guy and pushed him to become the best he could be through his education. She pushed him to aim for greater and to strive for excellence in all he did.
Being the single mother of a black man in the 1940s was a demanding challenge; however, she pushed through and rose to the challenge. Having the right person to rely on and trust in difficult times was of utmost importance in such a changing and chaotic environment. And thankfully, Guy had his mother.
Maya’s Legacy Through Her Son
Guy proved to be resilient and ambitious, breaking racial, cultural and social barriers with his success and accomplishments. He has devoted his life to the expression of knowledge, sharing his motivations and experiences through his own writing. He was a professor of English at colleges, a journalist for numerous newspapers. most notably for The Washington Post.
Guy dedicated his life to understanding the complexities of race, culture and identity and wrote extensively about these topics throughout his career. His work highlighted the importance of recognizing both the challenges and victories of different groups. He celebrated diversity and was an ardent advocate for human rights.
There is no doubt that Maya Angelou has left a lasting legacy on the world. Whether it is her powerful words, her works of literature or her activism, her mark is masterfully crafted over time. Through her son, Guy, Maya’s teachings and beliefs continue to be expressed and echoed in the world.
Establishing a New Legacy
The impact of Maya Angelou’s teachings and beliefs live on, not only through her works but her son Guy Johnson’s works too. His depth of understanding and implementation of his mother’s tendencies established a lasting legacy in its own right. It gave tribute to Maya’s essence and perspective of embracing diversity and the power within that while also pushing forth a new mission.
Guy’s life was his mother’s legacy, incorporating her work and beliefs with his own furthering the legacy of Maya Angelou. Through advocating for racial and social equality, Guy embodied Maya’s unwavering belief in liberty and justice for all. Despite his mother’s death in 2014, Guy has continued to carry the torch for his mother.
Their lasting legacies of belief, acceptance, and understanding have created a bridge between the past and present, allowing the values and wisdom of their work to be carried throughout generations.