Remembering Maya Angelou


Honoring the Legacy of Maya Angelou

The death of Maya Angelou on Wednesday was a tragic loss for the literary community We honor her legacy and her immense contribution to American literature with a selection from the chronology in The Cambridge Companion to African American Women's Literature that traces the important history of African American women's literature in the US and Angelou's integral role in its development.


Selected events from the Chronology of The Cambridge Companion to African American Women’s Literature.

1526 First Africans brought to North America.

1730 Lucy Terry thought to be born.

1746 Terry composes “Bars Fight,” the earliest known piece of literature by an African American.

1757 Phillis Wheatley bought by John Wheatley in Boston.

1773 Phillis Wheatley publishes the first book by an African American, Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral.

1775 In Philadelphia, the first antislavery society is formed.

1776 The Declaration of Independence is ratified.

1784 Death of Phillis Wheatley.

1787 The Three-fifths Compromise approved by Congress.

1793 The first Fugitive Slave Law is passed by Congress.

1797 Sojourner Truth is born in New York.

1808 The importation of enslaved Africans to the United States is prohibited.

1822 Harriet Tubman thought to be born. Denmark Vessey’s revolt against slavery.

1830 The end of the transatlantic slave trade.

1849 Harriet Tubman emancipates herself and becomes a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

1850 The first recorded African American woman to receive a college degree, Lucy Session, graduates from Oberlin College. Sometime during this decade Hannah Crafts writes The
Bondwoman’s Narrative, possibly the first novel by an African American woman published in the United States. Sojourner Truth publishes her autobiography, The Narrative
of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, with the aid of Olive Gilbert.

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

1855 After being passed down orally for over one hundred years, Lucy Terry’s poem, “Bars Fight,” is published.

1861–65 The American Civil War.

1862 President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved African Americans in rebel states.

1864 The Fugitive Slave Laws are revoked.

1868 The Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship and “equal protection” under the law to all citizens, including African Americans.

1883 Death of Sojourner Truth.

1896 The National Association of Colored Women is established. The Supreme Court ruling “separate but equal” in the Plessy v. Ferguson case supports racial segregation in the United

1897 Death of Harriet Jacobs.

1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded.

1910 The Crisis, the literary magazine of the NAACP, begins publication.

1913 Death of Harriet Tubman, legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad.

1917 Gwendolyn Brooks is born.

1920 Women are granted voting rights by the Nineteenth Amendment. The beginning of what is known as the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Renaissance.

1926 Negro History Week begins. Fire!, a literary journal, is published by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Wallace Thurman.

1931 Toni Morrison is born. Nine black boys are accused of raping two white girls in Scottsboro, Alabama.

1937 Death of blues singer Bessie Smith. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

1942 Zora Neal Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road; Margaret Walker, For My People. Margaret Walker is the first African American poet to win a national award, the Yale Younger
Poets Award.

1946 Ann Petry’s The Street is published; it later becomes the first novel by a black woman to sell more than a million copies.

1947 Octavia Butler is born.

1950 Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Gloria Naylor is born. Edith Spurlock Sampson (1901–79) becomes the first African American to serve as a delegate to the United Nations. Bebe Moore Campbell is born.

1951 TerryMcMillan is born. Rosa Guy (with John O. Killens) forms the Harlem Writers Guild.

1952 Rita Dove is born.

1954 The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case overturns the Plessy ruling of “separate but equal.”

1955 Emmett Till is abducted and murdered in August. In December Rosa Parks sparks the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give up her seat on a bus. Alice Childress wins Obie Award for Trouble in Mind.

1960 Death of Zora Neale Hurston.

1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Tennessee. Gwendolyn Brooks becomes poet laureate of Illinois. Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African American woman elected to congress. Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated in California. The National Black Theatre founded by Barbara Ann Teer. Gwendolyn Brooks, “In the Mecca”; Nikki Giovanni, Black
Feeling, Black Talk; Mari Evans, Where Is All the Music?; Lorraine Hansberry, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black; Kristin Hunter, The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou; June Jordan, Who Look at Me; Audre Lorde, The First Cities; Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi; Carolyn Rodgers, Paper Soul; Alice Walker, Once.

1970 Angela Davis makes FBI’s “most wanted” list. Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

1971 Maya Angelou, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’fore I Diiie.

1974 Virginia Hamilton becomes the first African American to win the Newbury Medal. Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name; Angela Jackson, Voodoo/Love Magic; Audre Lorde, The New York Head Shop and Museum.

1975 Death of Josephine Baker. Alice Walker publishes her tribute to Zora Neale Hurston in Ms., rescuing her from obscurity and reviving interest in her work. Maya Angelou, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well; Gayl Jones, Corregidora; Carolyn Rodgers, how i got ovah: New and Selected Poems; Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide /
when the rainbow is enuf; Sherley Anne Williams, Peacock Poems; Paulette White, Love Poem to a Black Junkie.

1981 Death of Harlem Renaissance writer Gwendolyn Bennett. Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman; Toni Morrison, Tar Baby; Mildred Taylor, Let the Circle Be Unbroken; Alice Walker,
You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.

1993 Toni Morrison becomes the first African American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Invited by President Clinton, Maya Angelou is the first woman and the first African American to read at a presidential inauguration, reading her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning.”

1994 Rita Dove is the first African American named US poet laureate.

2000 The Million Women March. Deaths of Gwendolyn Brooks and Barbara Christian. Alice Walker, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart.

2005 The Color Purple opens on Broadway.

2006 Deaths of Octavia Butler, Bebe Moore Campbell, Coretta Scott King, and Nellie Y. McKay.

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