Quotes from Maya Angelou’s Biographies

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“Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Life is shocking, but you must never appear shocked. For no matter how bad it is, it could be worse; and no matter how good it is, it could be better.”
— Vivian Baxter (I didn’t have this readily available but really liked it. I got it from here.)

*In the book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, the closest thing to it is “Hoped for the best, was prepared for the worst, so anything in between didn’t come as a surprise” on page 230.


“You may not always get what you pay for, but you will definitely pay for what you get.”
— Maya Angelou’s Mother Vivian Baxter – Singin’ and Swingin and Getting Merry Like Christmas (Page 15)


Jealousy is conceived only in insecurity and must be nourished in fear.
— Maya Angelou – Singin’ and Swingin and Getting Merry Like Christmas (Page 157)


“My head stayed high from habit, but my last hope was gone. Every way out of the maze had proved to be a false exit. My once lively imagination would not come up with one more fantasy. My courage was dwindling. Unfortunately, fortitude was not like the color of my skin, given to me once and mine forever. It needed to be resurrected each morning and exercised painstakingly. It also had to be fed with at least a few triumphs. My strength had fallen away from me as the pert features fade from an aging beauty. […] For the first time in my life I sat down defenseless to await life’s next assault.”
— Maya Angelou – Gather Together in My Name (Page 169)


Love is blind and hides a multitude of faults. I know what you’re talking about, and prostitution is like beauty. It is in the eye of the beholder. There are married women who are more whorish than a street prostitute because they have sold their bodies for marriage licenses, and there are some women who sleep with men for money who have great integrity because they are doing it for a purpose.
— Maya Angelou – Gather Together in My Name (Page 136)


Youthful cynicism is sad to observe, because it indicates not so much knowledge learned from bitter experiences as insufficient trust even to attempt the future.
— Maya Angelou – The Heart of a Woman (Page 35)


The size and power of [your] adversaries [are] not greater than [your] capabilities.
— Maya Angelou ~ Heart of a Woman (Page 70)


Blacks should be used to play whites. For centuries we had probed their faces, the angles of their bodies, the sounds of their voices and even their odors. Often our survival had depended upon the accurate reading of a white man’s chuckle or the disdainful wave of a white woman’s hand. Whites, on the other hand, always knew that no serious penalty threatened them if they misunderstood blacks. Whites were safely isolated from our concerns. When they chose, they could lift the racial curtain which separated us. They could indulge in sexual escapades, increase our families with mulatto bastards, make fortunes out of our music and eunuchs out of our men, then in seconds they could step away, and return unscarred to their pristine security. The cliche of whites being ignorant of blacks was not only true, but understandable. Oh, but we knew them with the intimacy of a surgeon’s scalpel.
— Maya Angelou – Heart of a Woman (Page 162)


Some whites, in black company, beset by the contradiction between long-learned racism and the demands of courtesy, confusedly offend listening blacks. The stereotypical “Some of my best friends…” and other awkward attempts at what they think to be civility, elicit from black people an outburst of anger whites can neither comprehend nor avoid.
— Maya Angelou – Heart of a Woman (Page 218)


I had long known that there were worlds of difference between males and men as there were between females and women. Genitalia indicated sex, but work, discipline, courage and love were needed for the creation of men and women.
— Maya Angelou – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 71)


The effects of cruel treatment die slowly.
— Maya Angelou – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 54)


Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because [s]he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time you didn’t know what you know today.
— Malcolm X (as per Maya Angelou) – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 140)


[Speaking on W.E.B. Du Bois] To many of us he was the first American Negro intellectual. We knew about Jack Johnson and Jesse Owens and Joe Louis. We were proud of Louis Armstrong and Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes. We memorized the verses of James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Countee Cullen, but they were athletes, musicians and poets, and White folks though all those talents came naturally to Negroes. So, while we survived because of those contributors and their contributions, the powerful White world didn’t stand in awe of them. Sadly, we also tended to take their brilliance for granted. But W.E.B. Du Bois and of course Paul Robeson were different, helf on a higher or at least on a different plateau than the others.
— Maya Angelou – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 121)


[While protesting in Ghana at the American Embassy as two soldiers raised the American flag] We were scorning the symbol of hypocrisy and hope. Many of us had only begun to realize in Africa that the Stars and Stripes was our flag and our only flag, and that knowledge was almost too painful to bear. We could physically return to Africa, find jobs, learn languages, even marry and remain on African soil all our lives, but we were born in the United States and it was the United States which had rejected, enslaved, exploited, then denied us. It was the United States which held the graves of our grandmothers and grandfathers. It was in the United States, under conditions too bizarre to detail, that those same ancestors had worked and dreams of “a better day, by and by.” […] I shuddered to think that while we wanted that flag dragged into the mud and sullied beyond repair, we also wanted it pristine, its white stripes, summer cloud white. Watching it wave in the breeze of a distance made us nearly choke with emotion. It lifted us up with its promise and broke our hearts with its denial.
— Maya Angelou – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 123)


Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
— Maya Angelou – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (Page 149)


“I had been in love many times before […], but I had never surrendered myself to anyone. I had given my word and my body, but I had never given my soul.”
— Maya Angelou – A Song Flung Up to Heaven (Page 9)


“Some folks say they want change. They just want exchange. The only want to have what the haves have, so they won’t have it anymore.”
— Bailey Johnson – Song Flung Up to Heaven (Page 20)


“Curiosity had often lured me to the edge of ruin. For years, I had know that there is nothing idle about curiosity, despite the fact that the two words are often used in tandem. Curiosity fidgets, is hard to satisfy, looks for answers even before forming questions. Curiosity wants to behold, to comprehend, maybe even to become.”
— Maya Angelou – A Song Flung Up to Heaven (Page 44)


“People use profanity because they have limited vocabularies or because they are lazy or too frustrated to search for the words they want.”
— Vivian Baxter – A Song Flung Up to Heaven (Page 62)

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