Dave Allocca LIFE Photo Collection 1994

This episode includes non-graphic descriptions of assaults, including one of a child. We give a heads-up in the body of the episode.

Maya Angelou was a writer, poet, memoirist, civil rights activist, entertainer, teacher, director, producer, mom, and friend but she was most masterful at sharing her life and wisdom with the most perfect collections of words. We use the bests one we can muster up to share her remarkable life story.

This is going to take us two three episodes.

In this episode, we cover the early years of a girl named Marguerite Annie Johnson who was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother and father, Vivian Baxter Johnson and Bailey Johnson, Sr, may have started their marriage passionately in love, but not long after their son, Bailey, Jr., and the little girl whose name her brother couldn’t pronounce were born, the marriage was winding down. Little Maya and Bailey spent their childhood with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. A short trip back to live with their mother in St. Louis ended about a year (and a traumatic event for Maya) later and the two headed back to Mama Annie, in Stamps. If you would like to learn more about the Rosenwald schools, this is a good source.

We cover the 5-year span where Maya didn’t talk, the development of her love of words, a reunion with a mother she barely knew, and end with a character-changing event that set a teenage Maya on a path of adventure and heartache.

Also, Susan, and her faulty memory had to go back to Schoolhouse Rock.

All of our media recommendations with be in Part Two, but we did want to leave you with a little homework. This exercise had a huge impact on a young Maya…and on us: Listen to this song, then go read the lyrics…out loud. You don’t have to be with anyone but yourself.


Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the glist’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Read more about the history of this important song at NAACP

Break music: Spy vs. Spy, by Sound 73; End music: Hymnal, by Town Monster

Used with permission iLicence Music