Maya Angelou Quotes

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Maya Angelou was an American poet, civil rights activist, and prolific writer.

Across the span of 50 years, she is credited with 7 autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, plays, movies, and television shows. Before her death in 2014, she received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

Her most famous autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, focuses on her life and experiences before the age of 17. Angelou lived a difficult, if fascinating, early life working as a sex worker, nightclub dancer, fry cook, actor, and journalist.

She was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in 1982, and became friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X through her involvement in the civil rights movement.

In 1993, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Maya Angelou’s writings and poems continue to inspire generations of people on themes like racism, self-identity, family, and travel. Here are 150 of the best Maya Angelou quotes.

Maya Angelou Quotes

Maya Angelou quote "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you"
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.

You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.

You can’t get too high for somebody to bring you down.

The Heart of a Woman

A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.

Maya Angelou quote "You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody"
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” – Maya Angelou

Human beings are more alike than unalike. Whether in Paris, Texas, or Paris, France, we all want to have good jobs where we are needed and respected and paid just a little more than we deserve. We want healthy children, safe streets, to be loved and have the unmitigated gall to accept love.

Suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.

The only way you can be a mark is if you want something for nothing. If you’re greedy, you’re set up.

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

"Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances"
“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

A mother’s love liberates.

Success is loving life and daring to live it.

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.

Don’t let the man bring you down.

The Heart of a Woman

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

Maya Angelou quote "I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh"
“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” – Maya Angelou

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Maya Angelou quote "I sustain myself with the love of family"
“I sustain myself with the love of family.” – Maya Angelou

We need much less than we think we need.

To those who have given up on love: I say, ‘Trust life a little bit.’

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.

A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.

Letter to My Daughter

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.

Maya Angelou quote "All great achievements require time"
“All great achievements require time.” – Maya Angelou

The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.

When we find someone who is brave, fun, intelligent, and loving, we have to thank the universe.

When was the last time anyone told you how important you are?

If a person – any human being – is told often enough, ‘You are nothing. You are nothing. You account for nothing. You count for nothing. You are less than a human being. I have no visibility of you,’ the person finally begins to believe it.

We are here to love each other. That is why you are alive. That is what life is for.

Maya Angelou quote "Nothing will work unless you do"
“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.

Home is a refuge not only from the world, but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns.

You listen with interest. That gives some sense of confidence to the speaker.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.

If I have a monument in this world, it is my son.

Maya Angelou quote "Only equals can become friends"
“Only equals can become friends.” – Maya Angelou

First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.

I was told many years ago by my grandmother who raised me: If somebody puts you on a road and you don’t feel comfortable on it and you look ahead and you don’t like the destination and you look behind and you don’t want to return to that place, step off the road.

When you know you are of worth — not asking it but knowing it — you walk into a room with a particular power.

I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

"Your belief and your work will speak for you"
“Your belief and your work will speak for you.” – Maya Angelou

This is what I am learning, at 82 years old: the main thing is to be in love with the search for truth.

The children to whom we read simple stories may or may not show gratitude, but each boon we give strengthens the pillars of the world.

History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.

My work is to be honest. My work is to try to think clearly, then have the courage to make sure that what I say is the truth.

To those who are given much, much is expected.

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.

"Life loves the liver of it"
“Life loves the liver of it.” – Maya Angelou

When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness… all the good things.

Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are — cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.

Live as though life was created for you.

We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.

"I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish"
“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.” – Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women
"The best candy shop a child can be left alone in, is the library"
“The best candy shop a child can be left alone in, is the library.” – Maya Angelou

Strong women- precious jewels all- their humanness is evident in their accessibility. We are able to enter into the spirit of these women and rejoice in their warmth and courage.

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.

Ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it.

Maya Angelou quote "As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else"
“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.” – Maya Angelou

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible, and live long lives.

Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.

Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

"Be present in all things and thankful for all things"
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.

Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

Maya Angelou quote "When you learn, teach, when you get, give"
“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?

Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it"
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story.

Some people cannot see a good thing when it is right here, right now. Others can sense a good thing coming when it is days, months, or miles away.

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.

I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.

In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.

Maya Angelou quote "Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!"
“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!” – Maya Angelou

We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate – thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising.

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.

Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.

I want to thank you, Lord, for life and all that’s in it. Thank you for the day and for the hour, and the minute.

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'"
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.'” – Maya Angelou

There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.

Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be"
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.

I want you to learn that you cannot have anything without working for it.

Mom & Me & Mom

I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

Maya Angelou quote "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud"
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.

The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

"Nothing can dim the light which shines from within"
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” – Maya Angelou

We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.

Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.

When you know you are of worth, you don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to become rude, you don’t have to become vulgar; you just are. And you are like the sky is, as the air is, the same way water is wet. It doesn’t have to protest.

I not only have the right to stand up for myself, but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say, ‘Can I be of help?’

Maya Angelou quote "Achievement brings its own anticlimax"
“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

When I forgive other people, I let them go, I free them from my ignorance. And as soon as I do, I feel lighter, brighter and better.

I’m really saddened by the attempts to separate and polarize. This is a time when we have hungry people, people out of work, and people out of spirit. This is a time where we need to uplift, not to separate.

"I want all my senses engaged. Let me absorb the world’s variety and uniqueness"
“I want all my senses engaged. Let me absorb the world’s variety and uniqueness.” – Maya Angelou

I never have written every day. When I’m writing a book, I write Monday through Friday. I always try to take Saturday and pretend to have some sanity.

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

I try to see every day as a celebration.

Those who have something to say accept the fact that that’s lonely. One already knows that there will be adversaries.

If I’m going to a new country, I try to learn something about the language and the culture, so I don’t just go bumbling over things.

"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities"
“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” – Maya Angelou

God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.

Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.

Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

The sisters and brothers that you meet give you the materials which your character uses to build itself. It is said that some people are born great, others achieve it, some have it thrust upon them. In truth, the ways in which your character is built have to do with all three of those. Those around you, those you choose, and those who choose you.

Maya Angelou quote "I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment"
“I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment.” – Maya Angelou

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.

Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now
Maya Angelou quotes "If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking"
“If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

Grace is like a lake of drinkable water right outside your door. But you stay inside and die of thirst.

We are only as blind as we want to be.

This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this amazing collection of Maya Angelou quotes!

If you want to learn more about one of America’s most beloved poets, why not start with her own words?

With 7 autobiographical books to choose from, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in her incredible life experiences.

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer and researcher with an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring ideas and tips that help people learn, gro, and inspire others.

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