How Did Maya Angelou Influence The World

Maya Angelou is one of the most beloved and inspirational figures of our time. Her words, her books, and her testimony of lived experience has profoundly impacted lives all over the world. She has been a powerful example of resilience, perseverance, and compassion. Let’s take a look at how Maya Angelou has influenced the world.

From her beginnings as an author, Maya Angelou wrote novels, poems, and essays that resonated deeply with readers. Her work was lyrical and often times reflective but always imbued with a certain honesty that gave voice to social and political problems. By depicting her characters’ struggles in a very real way, her scores of readers could relate and recognize their own tribulations in her work. Indeed, she wrote in order to both comfort and inspire readers, to transmit an understanding that everyone has the potential for greatness.

By being open about her own struggles in her memoirs and autobiographies, Maya Angelou imparted a legacy of love and strength to her readers. She spoke passionately about the African American experience and the need for representation in literature. Her intersectional representation of the experiences of race and gender gave her audiences the courage to be more accepting of others and their stories.

Maya Angelou was further an advocate for education and working with children to help them find their potential. She was the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, where she taught classes on history, writing, and ethics. Moreover, she wrote several books for children, many of which have been used in school curriculum. This demonstration of her desire to help children find their voice served as a strong advocacy of education.

Maya Angelou demonstrated time and time again that she was deeply passionate about helping people. She was a leader in the Civil Rights movement, a humanitarian, a speaker, an activist and an icon to many. Her ability to speak powerfully and eloquently of deep truths and concerns touched many. She was a strong advocate of loving oneself and respecting others. In her later years, Ms. Angelou worked with the homeless and disadvantaged, offering help to those who needed it most.

Even after her passing, Maya Angelou continues to be a powerful influence on the world. Her wisdom and experiences will never be forgotten. Certainly, her work serves as a reminder for us all that even despite the greatest of adversities, it is possible to come out triumphant.

Civil Rights Movement

Maya Angelou also played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. As a leader and activist, she spoke to audiences all over the world, including a speech she gave at the southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1968. In her speech, she rallied those present to fight for justice and equality. Further, she organized voter-registration drives and wrote an open letter to Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Eugene “Bull” Connor in which she criticized his treatment of protesters. Her tireless activism and speaking engagements made her an iconic leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

Notably, her work was even acknowledged by President Barack Obama in a speech he gave in honor of Angelou, referring to her as an “extraordinary symbol of courage and hope.” Angelou’s activism and visibility over the decades served to further the cause of civil rights. From her own autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in which she succinctly articulated the black experience, to her outspoken rejection of racism, Maya Angelou will forever remain an influential leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

Language and Poetry

Maya Angelou’s poetry was revolutionary in its day, strongly influenced by the civil rights movement and her own insights and observations. She wrote of resilience and the power of words even in the face of the most oppressive adversity. This made a lasting impact on the language, art, and poetry of the time.

Her book Phenomenal Woman was lauded as a book of poetry which embraced female beauty, regardless of size. Its notion of ‘flowering’ strength and beauty through adversity was celebrated around the world. This, combined with her other iconic poems such as Still I Rise, enabled her to create a dialogue regarding the equality of all people, regardless of their race, gender, or other factors. Similarly, her autobiographies and essays have been recognized as milestones in fiction and non-fiction writing.

Theatre and Screen


Maya Angelou also left a lasting legacy in the form of her very memorable appearances in feature films, television shows, and theater. In the film Georgia, Georgia, she portrayed the role of a grandmother and sang her signature song, “Let Me Fly.” She additionally acted in the musical adaptation of a Langston Hughes poem, debuting the role of “Momma.” What’s more, Angelou wrote the screenplay for the autobiographical film Poetic Justice and numerous plays for the stage.

Her rise to stardom and her memorable roles contributed to her stature in the broader culture. She had a playful yet forthright presence, his innate sophistication and strength lending itself naturally to her roles. She wasn’t just a fierce and undeniable force in writing, but on stage as well.

Public Speaker

Throughout her career, Angelou toured the world to give speeches and talks. Her poetry was often recited during important occasions, such as the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Her powerful words spoken with a warm strength left a lasting impression on all those who heard her speak.

Moreover, Angelou’s works were used as a teaching tool in classrooms around the world. Her riveting memoirs that spoke of her own struggle and resilience related to a variety of sources of oppression, thus allowing teens of color to have an inspiring figure to look to in Maya Angelou. Her talks and teachings further helped to share her experience of racial and gender inequality.


In her later years, Angelou turned her attention towards philanthropy and charity. She became a dual citizen of Ghana and the United States and earned a lifetime appointment as the North American chairperson for the University of Africa. Further, she established a scholarship for adolescents striving for higher education and partnered with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Give a Day” campaign, urging citizens to devote 24 hours of community service.

In this vein, Maya Angelou exhibited her understanding of the power of community to positively influence lives. Her words and influence further demonstrated her commitment to being a leader in the fight against social injustice. In this way, Angelou sparkled a ray of hope in the future of our efforts to strive towards equality.


Maya Angelou’s work will continue to reach new generations of readers and learners in the present time. Even after her passing, her legacy lives on in all aspects of life, from poetry, to civil rights, to philanthropy. Through her words, she has inspired and empowered countless people to speak their truth, embody a strength and power, and seek justice and equality for all.

Today, her works are quoted, toted around, among readers of all backgrounds. And when we remember that for many, Maya Angelou was a tangible, visible example of passion and strength, it is no wonder her legacy continues to resonate and reverberate like a song.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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