The Top Five Screen Appearances by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She is best-known for her seven autobiographies that focus on her experiences from childhood and early adulthood. The first of these was ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and it brought her international recognition. However, she is also well-known for her talent as a poet and for her involvement in the writing and production of many plays, television shows, and movies. Although most of her work in the entertainment industry was behind the scenes, she did make several on-screen appearances, though she admitted that she was a rather reluctant actor. Sadly, Maya Angelou died at the age of 86 on May 28, 2014. She would have celebrated her 90th birthday on April 4, 2018. IN celebration of this, here are five of Maya Angelou’s on-screen appearances.

1. Poetic Justice

Many of Angelou’s on-screen appearances were during the 1970s and she avoided making on-screen appearances throughout the 1980s. However, she made a return to the screen in 1993 when she played the role of one of the older women in John Singleton’s movie ‘Poetic Justice’. The film is based on poems written by Mary Angelou and these are read throughout the film bu a young poet called Justice who is played by Janet Jackson.

2. Roots

Maya Angelou had a supporting role in the 1977 television miniseries ‘Roots’. The storyline of this was based on the African-American experiences of slavery. Angelou appeared in just one episode playing the role of Nyo Boto.

3. Bill Clinton’s Inauguration

Angelou had the honor of reciting her poem ‘On the Pulse of the Morning’ at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She was only the second person ever to recite a poem at an inauguration. The first was Robert Frost in the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy.

4. Interview with David Chappelle

In 2005, Maya Angelou took part in a televised interview with David Chappelle. She talked with him about both comedy and about her writing process for ‘Iconoclasts’, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. She also described her writing routine and explained that first thing in the morning, she went straight to a hotel room. This helped her to leave everything else behind and focus on her writing.

5. The Richard Pryor Special

Maya Angelou appeared in one episode of ‘The Richard Pryor Special’. In her 1977 appearance, she played the role of the wife of Pryor’s character Willie who was a drunk. There is an interaction between the two in the sketch before Willie passes out. Angelou then delivers a heartbreaking performance in her monologue that follows. In it, she talks about how the ‘N’ word is not a term of affection, the consequences of alcoholism and the impact on the family, and how she has lost hopes and dreams.

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