She has been distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture.” She is a woman who has gone out on many limbs to make the world a better, safer and more living place.
Dr. Maya Angelou led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before.
Her story is told in the marvelous American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, making its national broadcast premiere on Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS as a continuing celebration of part of Black History. The DVD of the documentary will also be available (from PBS Distribution) that same done, and will include bonus features. The program will also be available for digital download.
With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible 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, American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise 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 Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.
American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise premiered to critical acclaim at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It won the Audience Award at AFI Docs and was featured at notable film festivals worldwide, including Full Frame, Sheffield, IDFA and Seattle, winning 17 awards on three continents, and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
The show’s title comes from an Angelou poem:
“Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. / Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise.”