This edition: Going Home with Maya AngelouTweet
Original tape date: August 8, 2014.
First aired: August 18, 2014.
Over the years and on several occasions, Bill Moyers interviewed Maya Angelou, the legendary author who died in late May. In this first of two programs celebrating her extraordinary life and legacy, Moyers revisits an episode from his 1982 series “Creativity” in which he and Angelou returned to the small town of Stamps, Arkansas, where she spent much of her childhood.
Walking with Moyers, she remembers a place where she was “terribly hurt… and vastly loved.” Stamps, Arkansas, was deeply segregated, divided by railroad tracks that split the town into black and white. “This was more or less a no man’s land here… If you were black you never felt really safe when you simply crossed the railroad tracks,” she says. “… And I used to have to walk over here. Oh gosh, I hated it. I had no protection at all over there. I had an idea of protection on this side. I had my grandmother on this side. I had the church, my uncle, and all my people were on this side. So I had an idea of protection, but there I would be all alone and I loathed it, crossing those railroad tracks.”
Angelou, who had been traumatized by rape at the age of seven-and-a-half and did not speak for several years, found her voice again with the help of a family friend, Mrs. Flowers, who “told me poetry was music written for the human voice” and encouraged her to read aloud. The great writers she read, the music she heard in church, and the scars of racial discrimination guided her toward the writing career that made her famous.
“I am a writer and Stamps must remain for me in that nebulous, unreal reality, because I'm a poet and I have to draw from these shadows, these densities, these phantasmagorias for my poetry,” Angelou tells Moyers. “I don’t want it to become a place on the map, because the truth is you never can leave home. You take it with you everywhere you go.”
Maya Angelou Poet, Author