Essays on the Theme of Heroism

Maya Angelou

by Imaan Kamran from San Diego, California in United States

Maya Angelou: A Woman to Remember

“We have a lot of corruption in our society. But we mustn’t assume that everything is always basely motivated. We should allow for the heroic impulse—which is to be greater than oneself, to try to find another version of oneself, to grow” (Stone). In the magazine article “Where I Find My Heroes,” author Oliver Stone justifies that people do not always become heroes because of motivation. Heroes possess the natural drive to do what is right and strive to be more than what they are. In our society, heroes worthy of recognition must acquire righteous morals and the drive to help others in need. In the past, the title of hero was given to any person who had the necessary qualities that make up a good person. Presently, modern heroes are constantly judged by their external appearance and stereotypes. But anyone can own the title of a hero no matter who they are or what they look like. The main goal a hero strives for is to make a significant change to the fabric of society. A true hero is someone who notices certain issues in the world and decides to do something about it to resolve that issue. Heroes remain far and wide in society today, but the greatest heroes do not go for recognition. Instead, they utilize their morals and righteous beliefs to make a difference in the world for the benefit of themselves and others. They are societal role models that people look up to for their moral actions and will to change the world for the better. Many of these moral actions form characteristics that make up a hero worthy of respect and recognition. Two major characteristics that they must have is the resilience to surpass their problems and passion for what they do and for helping others.

One woman who accurately displays these heroic characteristics is Maya Angelou, an exceptional African American writer, poet, civil rights activist, and philanthropist. Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was raised in Stamps, Arkansas and lived with her older brother, Bailey, grandmother who she referred to as “Momma,” and her uncle Willie. Stamps, Arkansas was a small town, facing the harsh effects of segregation during the Great Depression. Because of this, young Angelou had a tough childhood, dealing with problems uncommon for most children. She spent most of her early years without the love and support of her parents and was mercilessly raped at the young age of eight. Angelou did not allow herself to be conquered because of these issues. Instead, they helped her become a strong, independent woman who was able to rise from her downfalls. As Angelou grew up, she developed a passion and understanding of the world around her and thus gained the qualities that make her the hero that she is. She bore resilience and passion, two valuable characteristics that compose a worthy hero in our society. Because of her resilience as she overcame obstacles in her life and her passion for her work, Maya Angelou embodies the qualities of a true hero and is worthy of respect and recognition for all of history.

Because of Maya Angelou’s resilience to overcome obstacles throughout her life that brought her down, she inspires others to do the same. Maya Angelou faced the issue of being an African American woman being raised in a white town and living with extreme segregation and discrimination. In 1978 during the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. (who Angelou worked with in the movement) was assassinated and in response, Angelou wrote one of her most famous poems, “Still I Rise,” which reflects on the resilience and self-confidence she utilized in order to diminish oppression, racism, and her own grief that she felt after King died:

“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise” (21-24).

133994Maya Angelou's seventh autobiography, Mom & Me & Momwikimedia commonsAngelou uses verbs such as, “shoot” and “kill” to emphasize the significance of the oppression that not only she, but many people dealt with throughout their whole lives. By using the word, “air” in “But still like air, I’ll rise,” Angelou declares that those who are dealing with these hardships will still rise like air, which is an element that cannot be shot, cut, or killed. Throughout this poem, Angelou inspires people to bear resilience to overcome their obstacles and keep moving forward with their lives. In our world, the greatest heroes do not run away or hide from their problems; they remain confident and confront those challenges with the resilience to conquer them. Maya Angelou’s resilience makes her a hero because she never gave up on trying to overcome the obstacles that were blocking her path to success. Defeating these turmoils allowed her to reach her goals and achieve the success that she always wanted in her life. Similarly, Maya Angelou wrote the book Letter to My Daughter in 2009 which contains many poems, short stories, and life lessons for the reader to learn from. In Letter to My Daughter, Angelou writes, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” (Angelou). Angelou conveys that life is unpredictable and mistakes may often occur. But it is our choice whether to let it bring us down or to be resilient and overcome the past. She encourages people to not allow atrocious events to be their downfall in life and to remain persistent. This makes her a hero and a woman worthy of recognition because she inspires people to be resilient not only in the face of hardships, but to learn from the mistakes that are made throughout our lives. Through her resilience to face and overcome her challenges, Maya Angelou is a hero because she inspires people to confront their own problems and to keep trying in order to defeat them.

133993Maya Angelou hand on heart Baltimore M.D. Hopkins Hpspital Date 9 March 2019wikimedia commonsSimilarly, Maya Angelou had a substantial passion for working with the Civil Rights Movement to end discrimination and racism and supporting others through her job as a philanthropist. In the early 1960s, Maya Angelou joined a civil rights group of activists called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in which she helped form organizations for the movement. After leaving the organization, she was still passionate about supporting the Civil Rights Movement and all its marches: “After Angelou left the SCLC, to marry an anti-apartheid organizer and then to move to Egypt, she remained deeply engaged with the civil rights struggle. She was in Ghana when the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. But Maya Angelou still marched” (Nichols). Maya Angelou was especially passionate about being involved in the Civil Rights Movement and even though she was busy getting married and moving to Egypt, she still remained “deeply engaged” with the movement. Angelou had an overwhelming passion for the civil rights struggle. Even though she was in Ghana and the march for jobs and freedom took place in Washington, Angelou still marched. This shows how her passion for the civil rights movement makes her a hero. It influences people to do what they can to change and benefit the world, no matter the cost. Furthermore, in 2014, Maya Angelou was interviewed for a conversation about philanthropy. She explains the true meaning of charity; money or no money, every person is capable of giving something: “Each of us is a leader. And each of us has the possibility of being a philanthropist, of being charitable” (Angelou). In this interview, Angelou explains that everyone can be a philanthropist and give to charity because everyone has something to give. She defines charity as not only donating money to a noble cause, but donating the “soul and spirit” as well. Angelou was not only passionate about donating money for the endowment of a cause, but she was also passionate about providing something that every person is capable of giving: love. Through her passion for charity and supporting others, she teaches people the true meaning of charity. Heroes constantly put their heart and soul into saving and helping others. Similar to this, Angelou did not only provide money for the needy and donate to various causes, but she put her heart and soul into supporting others most of all. Thus, Maya Angelou’s passion for benefitting the world through the civil rights movement and passion for philanthropy make her an exceptional hero who deserves to be remembered in history.

133995Maya Angelouwikimedia commonsWith her persistence to conquer the challenges she faced while growing up and her passion for what she did every day of her life, Maya Angelou represents an inspirational role model and a hero to admire. “If you're for the right thing, you do it without thinking” (Angelou 249). Angelou possesses the natural drive of a hero who does the right thing in order to benefit herself and others around the world. By never giving up on reaching her goals, even when many problems arose along the way, Angelou achieved much more than she ever thought was possible. After remaining silent for more than four years, Angelou recognized that the only way she could be successful and live a life of liberation was to not allow the turmoils of her childhood and life to be her downfall. Instead, she dealt with her problems with resilience and realized that hardships and mistakes are a part of life, but it is her choice whether to be put down by them or to rise and stand against them. Furthermore, Maya Angelou was also passionate about her career as a civil rights activist and a philanthropist. This passion caused her to make significant changes in the world for the better and influence others to likewise. Angelou is not only an inspiration to the many who know who she is, but to me as well. As I grew up in elementary school, I loved to read poetry. I read a few of Angelou’s poems and found myself in love with her writing. Even though some poems were a bit difficult to understand, every poem overflowed with love and passion and always gave me hope for the future. At times of difficulties and loss when I felt like giving up, Angelou’s poems always came to my mind and kept me going. For instance, in fifth grade, there was a challenge to read fifty books by the end of the school year. The challenge was tough and I didn’t think I could finish reading all fifty books. But I recalled Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise” and it inspired me to keep reading and not give up. By the end of the school year, I had read all fifty books and was very proud of myself for being resilient. Angelou was not only an inspiring hero for having these qualities, but for making a difference in the world and for being an influence on others with those qualities. She always carried the natural “heroic impulse” (Stone) to help others and to change the world for the better. Through this impulse, Angelou inspires me and many others to benefit the world like she did.

Works Cited

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing. Ballantine Books, 2009.

Angelou, Maya. Letter to My Daughter. Virago, 2014.

Angelou, Maya. “Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,

Nichols, John. “Maya Angelou's Civil Rights Legacy.” The Nation, 29 June 2015,

Trust, Northern. “Philanthropy - A Conversation with Dr. Maya Angelou.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Feb. 2014,

“Where I Find My Heroes by Oliver Stone.” Teachers Pay Teachers,

Page created on 5/18/2019 11:09:11 PM

Last edited 5/19/2019 8:16:12 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Maya Angelou's Website - The website contains pictures and words in honor of Maya Angelou as well as descriptions of many of her works.
Angelou's Twitter - Maya Angelou's twitter account is still active in honor of her. On her account, there are quotes, poetry, and pictures of her.