Who Was Maya Angelou Influenced By

One of the most iconic authors and poets of all time, Maya Angelou was heavily influenced by the views and practices of her peers. She was raised in the conservative Southern United States of America, exposed to conservative values and beliefs. Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X were some of the people whom she found inspiring and inspiringly followed their works. Among Angelou’s closest associates were also British poet Robert Loomis, her younger sister Vivian, and her grandmother.

Angelou admired King’s courage and tenacity in the struggle for civil rights and pressed ahead with their shared mission of promoting short-term and long-term justice. Angelou’s relationship with her grandmother cultivated her opinion of the African-American identity and taught her the importance of reaffirming dignity within her heritage. She also learned a great deal from France’s prominent figures and energy, which inspired her writing style and structure.

Angelou was well aware of the tumultuous times in which she lived, and she implemented both the hard truths of life and the positive aspects of her experience into her works. Her writings captured life’s struggles and joys, offering readers an endless wealth of emotions and it is this which makes her so revered amongst readers.

Angelou often presented a concept of triple consciousness, combining elements from the African-American, feminist, and spiritual personas of herself to create remarkable stories that would later make her an icon. She excelled at accurately articulating her thoughts and understanding of the world through prose, verse, and essay.

Dorothy Height, another of Angelou’s inspirations, also taught her to rise above the stereotypes that encompassed her as a minority in order to empower other women. Height urged Angelou to fight for the empowerment of her peers, which she later in life attempted to do.

Who Maya Angelou was influenced by was an ongoing narrative in her life. Through the assistance of her friends, family, and colleagues, she eventually discovered her destiny and cofounded the literary and drama movement for modern African-American women.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of non-violence and non-hatred made a lasting impression on Maya Angelou’s thought process. King’s civil rights movement was adopted by Angelou in her works, reflecting the idea of a unified nation in pursuit of peace and justice. Angelou praised King’s commitment to the civil rights movement and his belief in the pursuit of human rights. This influence was most prominently seen in Angelou’s works such as Still I Rise, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Phenomenal Woman.

James Baldwin

Although Angelou did not have the opportunity to meet James Baldwin, his influence was heavily seen in her works. Drawing on his outspokenness as a part of the civil rights movement and his exquisite writing style and structure, Baldwin’s encouragement to Angelou to use her writing for social change was prominent. Themes of racism, classism, and the importance of embracing one’s identity in a diverse and intersecting world were all narrative points that Angelou touched on in her works, a result of Baldwin’s influence.

Malcolm X

Similar to Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X’s writings were integral in the pursuit of civil rights for Angelou. Both men were part of the civil rights movement, but their stances are quite different. Angelou followed X’s example of advocating for equal rights without a doctrine of hostility. Embedded in this rhetoric was the idea of reclaiming one’s heritage and identity, a theme often seen in many of Angelou’s works.

Robert Loomis

As the youngest of 7 siblings, Angelou received guidance and support from one of British poet Robert Loomis’s early works, particularly a part of a poem titled “Shall I Discourage Others.” In it, Loomis wrote that “tearing down barriers” was something all young leaders should strive for. This struck Angelou deeply; it was the same message she was trying to convey in her own works.

Vivian and Grandmother

The amount of love and care Angelou received from her younger sister Vivian and her grandmother was unconditional. It was from them that Angelou learned to actively practice faith in her beliefs, taught to her by her grandmother, as well as to be unafraid and forgiving in her beliefs, messages of which Angelou transferred into her works.

Dorothy Height

Activist Dorothy Height further mentored Maya Angelou on the need to embrace her heritage and the importance of helping her female peers. Height encouraged Angelou to reject stereotypes and pursue her path as a formidable woman leader. This motivation to break barriers was seen in many of Angelou’s works, such as Phenomenal Women and Phenomenal Woman.

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.

Leave a Comment