Maya Angelou

Who Mentored Maya Angelou?

Interview Watch the video of Maya Angelou.

Watch a public service announcement featuring Maya Angelou in support of National Mentoring Month.

The late Maya Angelou was hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature and as a remarkable Renaissance woman. She was a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. Dr. Angelou authored twelve best-selling books including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her more recent A Song Flung Up to Heaven.

Mrs. Flowers took me to the library in the black school. The library was probably as large as a telephone booth. It may have had 110 books in it, maybe. She said, “I want you to read every book in this room.” And I found poetry. And I loved it, I just loved it. I had no idea what it would sound like since I had never heard any recited, but I loved it. And I was able to translate it at 8, at 9, at 10. I consider that a lifeline, because finally, when I was about 12 and a half, almost 13, Mrs. Flowers — who would allow me to come to her house and she would read to me — when I was almost 13 she said, you will never really love poetry until you speak it, feel it come across your tongue, over your lips.

In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with. So if you know how to change a tire and that’s all, that’s good. But teach them by showing, by caring that they know these things. Then that will be of use some day. And it may never be actually called out. I don’t think I’ll be called out to change a tire. But I know fundamentally how to change a tire, and if I physically can’t do it, I may be able to attract some young person, and tell him how to take the lugs off…See? So a mentor helps the person to interpret the world.