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Author quotes: The needs of a society.

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When you decide to do a regular feature on your blog where you share interesting quotes from authors, well… it’s nice to work in a library when that’s the assignment you’ve set out for yourself. Because in a library there’s never a shortage of amazing stories and personalities in the library, no fear of ever running out of funny anecdotes, inspiring tales, or brilliant nuggets of wisdom.

And then when you do single out a particular author that you’d like to share the words of, it can be hard because part of the reason you picked them in the first place is that they’ve said so many wonderful things. But then again, it’s nice to be cursed with options, isn’t it?

Today’s author that I’d like to share the words of with you is Dr. Maya Angelou, the poet, memoirist, actress, director, raconteur, and civil rights activist. And rather than just a single quote, I’m going to indulge myself and treat you, and share a few…

One of my favorites:

“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.”

from Oprah Presents Master Class, featuring Dr. Maya Angelou, which aired 01/16/2011.

from here.

One of her most famous quotes:

“The needs of a society determine its ethics.”

from her first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, 1969. It’s often misquoted as “The needs of society determine its ethics,” which makes a little bit of a difference, but the quote in all of its context is: “The needs of a society determine its ethics, and in the Black American ghettos the hero is that man who is offered only the crumbs from his country’s table but by ingenuity and courage is able to take for himself a Lucullan feast.”

The title of Angelou’s book comes Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “Sympathy.”

from here.

And this is a quote I think most people need to hear:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

from Worth Repeating: More Than 5,000 Classic And Contemporary Quotes, edited by Bob Kelly, 2003.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Maya Angelou’s official website.

Maya Angelou’s twitter.

An oral history of Maya Angelou, via the National Visionary Leadership Project.

Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on this day last year.

An interview with Angelou in The Paris Review.

Maya Angelou’s Black History Month special.

A video of Maya Angelou reading her poem “On The Pulse Of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

A conversation with Maya Angelou at age 75.

The Schomburg Center in Harlem has acquired the Maya Angelou archives.

Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou at the Academy of American Poets.

At the library we have quite a few books both by Angelou and about her life and work, including classics like I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and The Heart Of A Woman, and I’ll hope you’ll come and check them out. We also have her poetry collection, And Still I Rise, and I’m going to leave you with a stanza from the title poem from that collection…

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.