In October of 1990 Dr. Russell Adams, the Chairman of the African-American Studies Department at Howard University, offered the present writer, who was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and a Distinguished Professor at Allen University an opportunity to become a faculty member at Howard University.
The planned one year post at Howard University was intended to replace Dr. Ramsey, a Professor of African-American Literature, for a sabbatical year. Having studied African-American Literature with National Honor Society Advisor M.P. White in 1974 at Dreher High School and being the first African-American man to become a Ph.D candidate in English at the University of South Carolina in 1987, and successfully teaching African American Literature at the Ecole Normal Superieure in 1984, 1985, and 1986 in West Africa, the offer to serve as a Visiting Professor at the greatest African American University in the world was a great honor.
In writing the syllabus for the course, the selection of Maya Angelou, who was the first African-American woman to become a bestselling author, required the class study her poems Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman. In August 1989 Ebony Magazine published a letter that expressed the present writer's concern that Black women were discounted and disrespected by American society. Maya Angelou was the answer to the concern.
Although she never went to college or graduate school her brilliant writing which was introduced to the world by James Baldwin led to her being hired as a Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in 1982. She held the professorship for 32 years and was slated to teach a course on Race and Gender when she died on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86. She was truly a phenomenal woman.
She was raped by a relative when she was eight years old; however, she refused to allow the horror of what that family member did to her to destroy her self-esteem or her self-concept. She wrote about the horror in her books. She once said, "Don't bring anything negative to my door," and she lived by her words. She went on to become a loving wife and mother who placed her son above all else when he was injured in an accident in Africa.
She did not celebrate her birthday for 30 years because her friend was brutally murdered on April 4, 1968. His name is known throughout the world-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She had the ability to sit down and craft the words that her brilliant mind created which miraculously captured the hearts and minds of America.
On the Pulse of Morning, the poem she wrote for President William Jefferson Clinton, was an example of her God given gift to use words to transform the way that people thought. This was her gift. And she carried that incredible power to place her thoughts on paper through seven, repeat seven, autobiographies where she told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about her life. She said, "Success is doing what you love." And although she had many successful jobs as a singer, dancer, actress, speaker, and civil rights leader; nevertheless, her greatest love was being a professor and a writer. And she did both extremely well.
She was scheduled to give a public lecture in June and her loyal and faithful son, Guy Johnson, said that her brilliant mind was sharp and alert until her last breath. She wrote right up to the time of her death having written to ask that the kidnapped African girls be set free in Nigeria. She never stopped writing.
America was blessed to have been given a force like Maya Angelou. America lost Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou in 2014. He said write until your arms fall off but never stop writing. Maya Angelou never stopped writing. It is certain that her like will never pass this way again.
Mount Zion Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was the church where Dr. Angelou was a member for over 30 years. The church is located on 950 File Street in Winston-Salem. Final plans are still being made on funeral arrangements. Examiner.com will attend the funeral and will pay respect to Dr. Maya Angelou.
Rest in Peace