Boundary-pushing poet, activist Angelou celebrated in documentary
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"Maya Angelou: American Masters" debuts Tuesday.
Courtesy OWN

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

The incomparable Maya Angelou’s exuberant life is explored in a new documentary on American Masters, debuting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Maya Angelou: American Masters — And Still I Rise will encore at 9 p.m. Feb. 24 and 8 p.m. March 10.

Angelou, best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, lived a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries.

With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Angelou’s journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words.

From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, the documentary reveals hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments.

The film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

"If this adulatory American Masters production elides certain chapters of Angelou’s biography, it nonetheless offers ample evidence of her commanding intensity and of her importance as an unwavering voice of the black experience," writes the Los Angeles Times' Sheri Linden.



Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.