A Reflection: Maya Angelou's 2011 Tallahassee Appearance

May 28, 2014

Legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou died Wednesday, but three years ago Tallahassee played host to the famed writer for an evening of song and lecture at Florida A&M University.

During Angelou’s appearance in Tallahassee she relied on a wheelchair and seemed frail-—being helped onstage by an assistant. But her voice was strong, and she had lots to talk about.

“I don’t trust people who don’t laugh. Never. It’s like, ‘I'm serious,’ and [they] act as if they put airplane glue on the back of their hand and stuck it to their forehead. I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you’re serious, but you’re boring as hell,' she said. "But if you’re really serious, you came here to make a difference.” 

Faith. Humor. Suffering. Perseverance. These are the themes Angelou has preached, and those remembered by her fans today. During a wide-ranging interview with WFSU, Angelou talked about her careers as a dancer and civil rights activist and her drive to look to the future.

“If you’ve been put on the road and you look ahead and you don’t want to go to that place—you don’t like that destination, and you look behind you and you don’t want to return to your stepping off place, then step off the road. Build yourself a brand new path,” she said. 

During her life, Angelou took many of those off-roads, but her path remained the same. Angelou became a professor at Wake Forest University, where she taught for more than 30 years. She has more than two dozen honorary doctorates and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Angelou was 86 years old.