Read One Of Maya Angelou’s Best Poems

Maya angelou
Maya Angelou speaks before delegates during the second night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston, July 27, 2004 REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

American author and poet Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86, CBS confirmed on Wednesday morning. Her literary agent said she died at her North Carolina home.

The acclaimed writer had been awarded more than fifty honorary degrees and held the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the U.S. A prominent civil rights activist, she worked with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Her poem from 1928, “Still I Rise,” is considered to be one of her seminal works. 66 years after she wrote it, the “deeply emotional poem” was featured in an advertisement for the United Negro College Fund.

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou, 1928

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

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.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

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.

In 2008, Angelou recited the 1928 work at the 75th birthday celebration of Andrew Young, a civil rights activist, former congressman, and pastor from Georgia. The poem begins in the video below at the 5:24 mark.