Women’s History Month: Maya Angelou

Women’s History Month

Women have made their mark on history in ways that surpass the test of time. They have given birth to generations, saved countries, and brought entire nations to their knees.

The entire month of March is dedicated to observing and celebrating the vital role of women in American history. I can go on continuously about the plethora of historic Sheroes of our nation’s past, but I’ve narrowed it down to one I have grown to admire, throughout my personal journey. Can you guess who she is?

Do You Know Who I am? 

To hear my words today, you will hear the power of femininity, my endurance and strength. However, there was a time when the sound of words eluded my lips. At the tender age of eight my innocence was shattered when I was sexually assaulted by someone whose name does not matter. By the power of my voice my attacker was arrested only to be released the next day. As the universe will have it four days after his release, he was murdered. 

I believed that it was my voice that had killed him. I was the one that told his name. I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone. This would lead me to become mute for a little over five years. It was during this time of silence that I developed an extraordinary memory, a love for all thing’s literature, and a profound ability to listen and observe the world around me. Do you know who I am?

If you answered Maya Angelou, then you are absolutely correct. 

My Mark on History

Maya Angelou’s undeterred strength was present even at an early age. She broke race and gender boundaries when she became the first African American woman to work as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Despite becoming pregnant and giving birth to a son soon after graduating from high school, she didn’t let that stop her.

Right after graduation, she became active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Ms. Angelou became the northern coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization that was created by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957.

A group of African American writers in New York City formed a group to nurture and support the publication of Black authors in the 1950’s.  They were called The Harlem Writers Guild; Mrs. Angelou was one of their early members. It was during this time that our shereo began writing her most famous work.

In 1969, the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography of Maya Angelou’s life, was published. Her autobiography was nominated for the National Book Award, has since been translated into numerous languages, and has sold over a million copies. Her work did not stop there. In 1972, with the production of “Georgia, Georgia”, she became the first African American woman to have her screenplay turned into a film. Mrs. Angelou accumulated Tony nominations for the roles she played in “Look Away” in 1973 and “Roots” in 1977. 

Spanning over 50 years, this magnificent woman has published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. She has also been credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows. Her work has earned her dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.  

Maya Angelou

On May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou passed away. There were several memorials held in her honor including ones at Wake Forest University and Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. At the time of her death, she was working on yet another autobiography. This book would have been about her experiences with national and world leaders.  As a show of gratitude and to honor her legacy, in 2015 the US Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness on it. 

Even though I love her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, It is her poem Phenomenal Woman that wins my heart every time. Take a moment to indulge in this amazing poem by a truly phenomenal woman.

Phenomenal Woman

By: 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

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can’t see.   

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.   

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


April Jackson-Hunter was born in March of 77, she currently lives in Georgia with her family. She received a Master of Art in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Herzing University. Her story isn’t different from anyone else’s, she took a portion of her life that wouldn’t be forgotten and harnessed it. After experiencing violence at the hands of someone who was supposed to love her, she battled fear, guilt, and shame until she couldn’t mentally handle it anymore. After seeking help for what she thought were mental instabilities, she received some game changing advice. A counselor suggested that she start a journal in an attempt to help with recurring nightmares and insomnia issues. The journal she started transformed her into the author of her book which She entitled Mercedes’ Closet: Keeping Deadly Secrets. Mrs. Jackson-Hunter is also an advocate, whose passion is to assist victims of domestic/partner violence in the LGBTQ community. Her mission is to help victims of domestic/partner violence understand they are not alone. She feels everyone needs to feel as though there is someone in their corner during a dark time. For this reason, she founded Mercedes’ Closet which is a nonprofit geared to offering support and resources in the LGBTQ community for not only victims of domestic/partner violence but also victims of other violent crimes such as rape, hate crimes, as well as transviolence, which is due to officially launch in the mid of 2020.

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