Maya Angelou (Steve Exum/Getty Images) Maya Angelou (Steve Exum/Getty Images)

The world lost a great this morning. Poet and civil rights icon Maya Angelou died at age 86. Her voice was memorable. Her writing, dancing and acting were powerful. And her status as an American conscience was undeniable. Angelou did everything and took home an Emmy, three Grammys, a Tony nomination, a Pulitzer nomination and the presidential Medal of Freedom for doing it.

Angelou’s work and words will wash over us over the next few days, particularly “On the pulse of morning,” her poem at President Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. But the Angelou work that sticks with me is “And still I rise,” her 1978 poem of African American determination and survival.

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.

And because of her words and her deeds, we soared a little higher. Rest in peace, Maya Angelou.


Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj