Twentieth Century Literary Giants
Photograph by Steve Dunwell, courtesy of Dr. Angelou's office.
Maya Angelou became one of America's most famous poets when she delivered her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration on 20 January 1993, the first black woman to be asked to compose such a piece. Yet her literary reputation was established much earlier, with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), the first volume of her serial autobiography that chronicles her early life in the segregated, pre-civil rights South. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became an almost instant classic, quickly finding its way onto many high school reading lists. Angelou's subsequent autobiographical novels describing her triumph over numerous difficulties, set against the backdrop of the tumultuous twentieth century, resonate with the long literary tradition that began with the slave narratives of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.