Maya Angelou Quotes

125+ Remarkable Maya Angelou Quotes to Inspire Your Life, Love, and Career

Marguerite Annie Johnson, better known as the American poet Maya Angelou, was born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1940, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California with her mother where she worked a variety of jobs including a waitress, prostitute, dancer, etc. She gave birth to her only son, Guy Johnson, in 1944 at the young age of 16. While working to support her family, she discovered a passion for dancing and in the late 1950s decided to move across the country to New York City. In the Big Apple, she landed a tole in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess which took her across 22 countries in Europe and Africa. Throughout the following decade, she continued to star in performances and write for the Arab Observer in Egypt and then the African Review in Ghana.

When 1966 came, Angelou decided to move back to California where she became the first African American woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a plethora of Hollywood productions. During this time in her life she received two Tony Award nominations; one for her performance in Look Away (1973) and one for her performance in the TV series Roots (1977). In 1981, she continued her career as a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina while heavily pursuing her love for writing.

In her lifetime she was awarded over 50 honorary degrees including but not limited to, the National Medal of Arts (2000), three Grammys (1994, 1996, & 2003), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010). Angelou also delivered her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the inauguration of United States President, Bill Clinton. She was an incredible woman who was known as an avid Civil Rights Activist and whose life was brimming with courage, joy, and inspiration. Her death on May 28th, 2014 sent many into mourning but as a renowned poet, one of her greatest gifts to society was the many works of autobiography, poetry, and literature that encapsulated the beautiful life she lived and the greatest quotes she graced us with. Find some inspiring quotes below in this list of remarkable Maya Angelou quotes.

Maya Angelou Quotes
Maya Angelou delivering her poem at the Inauguration of Bill Clinton.

Motivational Maya Angelou Quotes on Life and Courage

“Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise.”

“I believe that every person is born with talent.”

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

“I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment.”

“I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it.”

“Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.”

“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

“I think that each of us is so much alike, and yet at the same time we are so different, and I have a feeling that if you encountered difficulty, and I with my age encountered the same difficulty, I would respond one way, and you would respond another. Neither would be right or wrong. It’s just that each of us is courageous, and that’s what I encourage, courage, and the courage to see, and the courage to say to oneself what one has seen. Don’t be in denial.”

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”

“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!” And I Still Rise (poem collection)

“Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise. Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide. Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise. Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise.” Still I Rise (poem)

“To develop courage you have to start developing courage as you do any other muscle. You have to start with small things and build it up.”

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

“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.”

“Just do right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world.”

“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.”

“We need much less than we think we need.”

“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.”

“Life loves the liver of it.”

“Live as though life was created for you.”

“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

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

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

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

“Determine to live life with flair and laughter.”

“Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, ‘I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.’”

“Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish, it is an imponderably valuable gift.”

Maya Angelou Quotes on Growing and Being True to Oneself

“I am a woman phenomenally, phenomenal woman that is your grandmother, that is your mother, that is your sister, that is you and that is me.” Phenomenal Women (poem)

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

“I’ve learned that forgiving is one of the greatest gifts that I can give myself.”

“Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself.”

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.”

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

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

“All great achievements require time.”

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”

“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 (book)

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

“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?'”

“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.”

“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.”

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

“When I decided to speak, I had a lot to say.”

“If you want what you’re saying heard, then take your time and say it so that the listener will actually hear it. You might save somebody’s life. Your own, first.”

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”

Maya Angelou Quotes on Love, Happiness, and Friendship

“Joy is a freedom. It helps a person to find his or her own liberation. The person who is joyous takes responsibility for the time he/she takes up and the space that he/she occupies. You share it! Some of you have it … you share it! That is what joy is! When you continue to give it away you will still have so much more of it.”

“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.”

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

“What I really would like said about me is that I dared to love. By love, I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”

“I believe that people want the scent of love, more than anything else. And I don’t mean sentimentality, I don’t mean mush. I mean that idea, that human beings are more alike than we are different.”

“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

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

“Had I known that the heart breaks slowly, dismantling itself into unrecognizable plots of misery… had I known yet I would have loved you, your brash and insolent beauty, your heavy comedic face and knowledge of sweet delights, but from a distance I would have left you whole and wholly for the delectation of those who wanted more and cared less.” And Still I Rise (poem collection)

“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.”

“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.”

“It’s hard because people think they have something to lose and the truth is they have everything to gain in trying to love somebody.”

“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.”

“In the flush of love’s light / we dare be brave / and suddenly we see / that love costs all we are / and will ever be. / Yet it is only love which sets us free.” Touched by an Angel (poem)

“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.”

“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.”

“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” Letter to My Daughter (book)

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

“Only equals can become friends.”

“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.”

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

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

“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.”

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

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

“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.”

“The honorary duty of a human being is to love.”

“Everybody is worth everything.”

“It’s very important to know the neighbor next door and the people down the street and the people in another race.”

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

“Nobody can enjoy unless we all enjoy, truly enjoy.”

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love.”

Words of Wisdom and Quotes from Maya Angelou

“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.”

“One person, with good purpose, can, constitute the majority.”

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”

“A man or woman who sees other people as whole and prepared and accords them respect and the same rights has arranged his or her own allies.”

“My equipment tends to be that of a social humanitarian and a poet, which I suppose is the same thing, and I tend to watch how people are.”

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.” I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (poem)

“I’m convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. So when the rude or cruel thing is said – the lambasting, the gay bashing, the hate – I say, “Take it all out of my house!” Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (book)

“My people couldn’t have survived slavery without having hope that it would get better.”

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

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

“If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.”

“I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.”

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.”

“The truth is, right may not be expedient. It may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul.”

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

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

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

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

“I try to see every day as a celebration.”

“We are only as blind as we want to be.”

“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.”

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”

“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.”

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

“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.”

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

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

Maya Angelou Quotes on Hard Work and Pursuing Dreams

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

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

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

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

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

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

“The best candy shop a child can be left alone in, is the library.”

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

“When you get, give. When you learn, teach.”

“Your belief and your work will speak for you.”

“If a human being dreams a great dream, dares to love somebody; if a human being dares to be Martin King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Malcolm X; if a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born – it means so can you. And so you can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize, ‘Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ That’s one thing I’m learning.”

For Further Reading & Information

Enjoyed a Maya Angelou quote above? If so, then be sure to check out some of her most prized pieces of poetry and literature. If a new favorite quote was found in this article, then an inspirational quote or two will certainly be found in her work.

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About the author
Katee is a lover of language and is in awe of the power it holds. Read more articles from Katee on Thought Catalog.

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