Maya Angelou(1928 -2014) American poet, memoirist, and actress whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.
Angelou published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.
Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal traumatic life.
She became a poet and writer after a string of odd jobs during her young adulthood. These included fry cook, sex worker, nightclub performer, Porgy and Bess cast member, Southern Christian Leadership Conference coordinator, and correspondent in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa.
Angelou was also an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.
In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Beginning in the 1990s, she made approximately 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties.
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Angelou was respected as a spokesperson for African American people and women, and her works have been considered a defence of African American culture.
Her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide, although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries.
Angelou’s most celebrated works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics consider them to be autobiographies.
She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing and expanding the genre. Her books centre on themes including racism, identity, family and travel.
A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon, The dinosaur, who left dried tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song. It says, Come, rest here by my side.
Each of you, a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come, Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the rock were one. Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sang and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African, the Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
They hear the first and last of every Tree Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you, Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of Other seekers—desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot, You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought, Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am that Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours—your passages have been paid. Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon This day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands, Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For a new beginning. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out and upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here, on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister’s eyes, and into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope— Good morning.
Robert Fripp(1946 – ) an English musician, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the guitarist, founder and longest-lasting member of the progressive rock band King Crimson.
Fripp has worked extensively as a session musician and collaborator, notably with David Bowie, Blondie, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall, Midge Ure, Talking Heads, and David Sylvian.
Fripp has also contributed sounds to the Windows Vista operating system.] His discography includes contributions to over 700 official releases.
Fripp is ranked 62nd on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2011 list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Tied with Andrés Segovia, he also is ranked 47th on Gibson’s Top 50 guitarists of all time.
Fripp’s compositions often feature unusual time signatures, which have been influenced by classical and folk traditions. His innovations include a tape delay system known as “Frippertronics” and new standard tuning.
Tupac Amaru Shakur (1971 – 1996), better known by his stage name 2Pac and by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor.
He is considered by many to be one of the most influential rappers of all time. Much of Shakur’s work has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of resistance and activism against inequality.
Shakur was born in Manhattan, a borough of New York City, but relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to further pursue his music career. By the time he released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, he had become a central figure in West Coast hip hop, introducing social issues in the genre at a time when gangsta rap was dominant in the mainstream.
Shakur became heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry between 1995 and 1996. His double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996) became certified Diamond by the RIAA.
On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
Five more albums have been released since his death, all of which have been certified platinum in the United States.
Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 2002, he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.
In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone named Shakur in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Outside music, Shakur also gained considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles as Bishop in Juice (1992), Lucky in Poetic Justice (1993) where he starred alongside Janet Jackson, Ezekiel in Gridlock’d (1997), and Jake in Gang Related (1997).
Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr.(1861—1949) an American playwright, poet, author, and educator. He was the father of poet-playwright Joseph Seamon, Junior.
Joseph Seamon Cotter had to leave school at age eight to work at a variety of jobs because of family financial exigencies.
Cotter had been a precocious child, learning to read at the age of three from a mother who had the gifts, as Cotter wrote later, of “a poet, storyteller, a maker of plays.”
When Cotter was twenty-two the prominent Louisville educator William T. Peyton encouraged the promising young man to return to school. After some remediation and two night school sessions, Cotter began his teaching career.
He went on to a career of more than fifty years as teacher and administrator with the Louisville public schools. In 1891 Cotter married his fellow educator Maria F. Cox, with whom he had three children, including the important poet in his own right Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr.
Although known in his own time as a prominent educator and African American civic leader, as well as for his prolific authorship in varied genres, today Cotter is remembered primarily for his poetry.
In his first collection, A Rhyming (1895), we see the young Cotter experimenting with varied poetic forms, including the traditional ballad and the Italian sonnet.
Cotter’s second book, Links of Friendship (1898), is another eclectic collection in varied forms.
Cotter went on to publish three more collections of poetry, including the Collected Poems of Joseph S. Cotter, Sr. (1938) and the Sequel to “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and Other Poems (1939), whose title poem, a response to Robert Browning’s poem “The Pied Piper”, is regarded as among Cotter’s finest.
Overall, it may be said that Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., provided a sustaining voice during one of the most difficult eras of African American history, and he was a man who backed his words with action in building the African American community.
There is naught in the pathless reach Of the pale, blue sky above, There is naught that the stars tell, each to each, As over the heavens they rove; That I have not felt, or have not seen Clad in dull earth or fancy’s sheen.
There is naught, in the still, mauve twilight When the dreams come flitting by, From lands afar of eternal night, Or lands of the sunswept sky, For countless spirits within me dwell With heaven’s efflugence or dark hell.
Abraham Lincoln(1809 -1865), was the 16th president of the United States and one of the great American leaders. His presidency was dominated by the American Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln was brought up in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. His parents were poor pioneers and Lincoln was largely self-educated.
In 1836, he qualified as a lawyer and went to work in a law practice in Springfield, Illinois. He sat in the state legislature from 1834 to 1842 and in 1846 was elected to Congress, representing the Whig Party for a term.
In 1856, he joined the new Republican Party and in 1860 he was asked to run as their presidential candidate.
In the presidential campaign, Lincoln made his opposition to slavery very clear. His victory provoked a crisis, with many southerners fearing that he would attempt to abolish slavery in the South.
Seven southern states left the Union to form the Confederate States of America, also known as the Confederacy. Four more joined later. Lincoln vowed to preserve the Union even if it meant war.
Fighting broke out in April 1861. Lincoln always defined the Civil War as a struggle to save the Union, but in January 1863 he nonetheless issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in areas still under Confederate control. This was an important symbolic gesture that identified the Union’s struggle as a war to end slavery.
In the effort to win the war, Lincoln assumed more power than any president before him, declaring martial law and suspending legal rights. He had difficulty finding effective generals to lead the Union armies until the appointment of Ulysses S Grant as overall commander in 1864.
On 19 November 1863, Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, a decisive Union victory that had taken place earlier in the year.
In 1864, Lincoln stood for re-election and won. In his second inaugural address, he was conciliatory towards the southern states.
On 9 April 1865, the Confederate general Robert E Lee surrendered, effectively ending the war that had lasted for more than four years and 600,000 Americans had died.
Less than a week later, Lincoln was shot while attending a performance at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC and died the next morning, 15 April 1865.
Elliott Erwitt(1928 -), French-born American photographer and filmmaker who is known for his uncanny ability to capture on film the humour and irony of everyday life.
Erwitt is the man behind some of the most oft-reproduced photographs. Many of them are so ubiquitous, appearing in advertisements and on posters, mugs, and postcards, that they often are no longer identified as his.
Such an image is a Provence, France, 1955, the image of a man, wearing a beret, riding his bicycle down the road ahead while perched on the back are two long baguettes and a child looking back at the photographer over his shoulder.
In the 21st century, Erwitt’s reputation has grown, and he has been recognized with numerous exhibitions, notably a large-scale retrospective in 2011, “Elliott Erwitt: Personal Best,” at the International Center for Photography (ICP), New York City. He also received the ICP Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2011.