Maya Angelou is a Song Flung Up to Heaven

Maya Angelou has been found dead by the poet’s caregivers at the age of 86. A civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, journalist and professor who lived and worked in places like Egypt and Ghana, Angelou had a very storied life, to the point that she herself wrote seven autobiographies, the first of which, called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), gave her both commercial and critical success and recognition. Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, no expected that the little girl who at age 7 fell into a trauma-induced silence that lasted six years would become the voice of not one, but several generations of African-Americans, and of America as a whole.

Angelou was a renaissance woman if there ever was one, a designation proven true by her sprawling oeuvre across several fields as well as the honors accorded her, as shown below: 

 Maya Angelou’s selected works






Children’s books


Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993)

Cabaret for Freedom (1960)

Life Doesn't Frighten Me (1993)

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes (2004)

Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975)

Gather Together in My Name (1974)

Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997)

The Least of These (1966)

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (1994)

Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart (2010)

And Still I Rise (1978)

Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976)

Letter to My Daughter (2008)

The Best of These (1966)

Kofi and His Magic (1996)


Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? (1983)

The Heart of a Woman (1981)


Getting’ up stayed on My Mind (1967)

Maya's World series (2004)


Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987)

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)


And Still I Rise (1976)



I Shall Not Be Moved (1990)

A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002)





On the Pulse of Morning (1993)

Mom & Me & Mom (2013)





  Film and Television





As Herself

Porgy and Bess (1959, uncredited)

Georgia, Georgia (1972)

Visions (1976)

Sister, Sister (1982)

The Real Malcolm X (1992)

Roots (1977)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979)

Down in the Delta (1998)


The Great Depression (1993)

The Richard Pryor Special (1977)

Sister, Sister (1982)



The American Experience (1994)

Poetic Justice (1993)

America’s Dream (1996)



A Century of Women (1994)

How to Make an American Quilt (1995)

How Do You Spell God (1996)



Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future (1999)

Touched by An Angel (1995)

The Black Candle (2008)



Sesame Street (1993-2000)

Madea’s Family Reunion (2006)




I Hope You Dance: The Power and Spirit of Song (2014)



Spoken word

Miss Calypso (1957)

The Poetry of Maya Angelou (1969)

For the Love of Ivy (1968)

Women in Business (1981)


On the Pulse of Morning (1993)


A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002)



Honorary Degrees

Chubb Fellowship

Wake Forest University

Matrix Award

Columbia College Chicago

Langston Hughes Medal

Boston College

Horatio Alger Award

Howard University

Grammy for Best Spoken Album (3 times)

Tufts University

NAACP Image Award

Lafayette College

National Women's Hall of Fame

Hope College

National Medal of Arts

Rollins College

Mother Teresa Award

Chapman University

Lincoln Medal

Shenandoah University

Norman Mailer Prize

University of Redlands

Clearly Maya Angelou’s legacy speaks for itself, but what will leave an even bigger impression on posterity will be her larger-than-life persona; a Jill-of-all-trades whose life could be the inspiration for tall-tales of the future, and the last of a line of African American trailblazers that included her close friends Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.