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By Maya Angelou

She came home running

       back to the mothering blackness   

       deep in the smothering blackness

white tears icicle gold plains of her face   

       She came home running


She came down creeping

       here to the black arms waiting

       now to the warm heart waiting

rime of alien dreams befrosts her rich brown face   

       She came down creeping


She came home blameless

       black yet as Hagar’s daughter

       tall as was Sheba’s daughter

threats of northern winds die on the desert’s face   

       She came home blameless


Maya Angelou, “The Mothering Blackness” from Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Fore I Die. Copyright © 1971 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)

Poet Bio

Writer and activist Maya Angelou had a broad and successful career as a streetcar conductor, a dancer, editor, teacher, storyteller, and actress. Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, she gained fame with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her 1970 autobiography which speaks courageously of her encounters with racism. One of the best-known writers in America, Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the first black woman to have a screenplay (Georgia, Georgia) produced in 1972, and she received an Emmy nomination for her performance in Roots in 1977. Angelou wrote the poetry for the 1993 film Poetic Justice, and went on to appear in that film and others, including There Are No Children Here and How to Make an American Quilt. She died in 2014 at the age of 86.

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