Maya Angelou: Poet, Activist, Voter

In remembering Maya Angelou, many people admire the strength of her writing as well as her activism. She leaves a legacy of outspokenness on the importance of voting.
Angelou began her involvement in the electoral process during the Civil Rights Movement as a member and eventually the Northern Coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group that Martin Luther King founded. One of the SCLC’s goals was the organization of voter registration drives. Angelou even used the Cabaret for Freedom to fundraise for the SCLC to make these drives and other projects possible.

In 2004, Angelou revealed to Newsweek her opinions on the responsibility of the President as an elected leader. She emphasized, “I would ask whoever is voted in to keep in mind that he is the president of the Latinos, of the poor whites in West Virginia and wherever else, of the blacks, of the Jews, of the growing Arab community. He is our president, whether we voted for him or not… I would love to see an end to the polarization, the ‘they and the we.’ I would love to see that.” To Angelou, voting offered a way for the American people to participate in the democracy.

maya speakingVoting also held a special place for Angelou in the opportunity it affords women. In 2012, Angelou offered her view on the relationship between women and elections in an interview with the radio station Power 98FM, believing, “women are a key part of the world.”

In 2012, Angelou explicitly implored American citizens to vote via an email to the incumbent president’s supporters, saying, “I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country—as an American.” For Angelou, “Voting is the great equalizer.” She wanted people to participate, acknowledging, “as Rev. King wrote, ‘All progress is precarious.’ So don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t hesitate. Don’t have any regrets. Vote.”

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