First lady Michelle Obama (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Watch Michelle Obama's powerful tribute to Maya Angelou

The first lady says the late author and poet was "one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known"

Elias Isquith
June 8, 2014 5:02PM (UTC)

Speaking at Wake Forest University's memorial service for the beloved writer, first lady Michelle Obama praised the late Maya Angelou on Saturday as an inspiration to her and countless other black women across the world.

"She touched me," Obama said, "she touched all of you, she touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya and raised her son to be the first black president of the United States."


The first lady was joined by Oprah Winfrey and former president Bill Clinton; but Angelou — as a writer, but also as a person — was the real star.

"She was the master," Obama said of Angelou. "For at a time when there were such stifling constraints on how a black woman could exist in the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely, passionate, unapologetic self."

"In so many ways," Obama continued, "Maya Angelou knew us. She knew our hope, our pain, our ambition, our fear, our anger, our shame, and she assured us that in spite of it all — in fact, because of it all — we were good. And in doing so, she paved the way for me and Oprah and so many others just to be our good old black woman selves.”


You can watch Obama's speech below.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias IsquithFOLLOW eliasisquithLIKE Elias Isquith

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •