Maya Angelou - Yet to be United States

Essay by Someone GoodUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2004

download word file, 5 pages 4.5

When Dr. Maya Angelou read her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," written especially for President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, the 'best kept secret in literary circles' was thoughtfully revealed to the whole world. She is arguably the most influential woman of her race, but there is more to Maya Angelou than being an African American female. Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis in 1928, she has lived many lives in one, escaped a torturous and impoverished childhood to become a performing artist, poet, author, teacher and human rights activist. One of her earliest influences was Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African-American poet to appeal to both black and white readers. These lines from "Ode to Ethiopia" undoubtedly had a profound impact upon the young girl who read them: "No other race, or white or black, / When bound as thou wert, to the rack, / So seldom stooped to grieving, / No other race, when free again, / Forgot the past and proved them men / So noble in forgiving" (chron7a.html).

Maya Angelou is a citizen of the world, but her heritage is that of an American. She is not afraid to take her native country to chore for past sins, and expects her audience to do so as well. She writes poetry which rhymes, but like Dunbar, sometimes it's every line, sometimes every other line. She is concerned with the literacy of children and writes poetry that is easily understood by young readers. This is essentially true of her 1990 poem, "These Yet to be United States," and the subject is just as its title imply. It is a poem about the militarily powerful United States, which has been historically unable to successfully unite its racial and economic factions. In this original interpretation of the...