Celebrated poet, novelist, and activist Maya Angelou died, May 28, 2014, after being hospitalized for an “unexpected ailment” last month, NBC News reports. She was 86.
Born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, her historic career spans six decades, from her first days as a theater dancer, writer, and actress in the 1950s to her latest book, Mom & Me & Mom, which was released in 2013.
Angelou’s work has earned her more than 30 honorary degrees, a Presidential Medal of Arts, a Lincoln Medal, three Grammys, and the honor of reading her poetry at President Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. She was a rich source of wisdom and inspiring perspective—snippets of which we’ve collected here.
1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Undated
2. “The needs of a society determine its ethics.” —1969
3. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” —Undated
4. “You don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.” —1969
5. “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” —Undated
6. “You can never be great at anything unless you love it.” —2000
7. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” —2009
8. “Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.” —2009
9. “Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.” —2009
10. “The first thing I do in the morning when I awaken is say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’ I’m grateful to be alive, and I’m going to try to tell the truth as well as I know and tell it as eloquently as I can so that people can hear it.” —2012
11. “I thank God that I’ve lived long enough to see what I have seen, and I pray that people will continue to do better. We are doing better, it may not seem so, but there was a time when people were lynched in the middle of the street and it was not against the law. We are doing better, but we have so much more to do.” —2012
12. “I’m grateful to be of use. I will not be misused or abused, but I will be of use to anybody.” —2012
13. “I have a certain way of being in this world, and I shall not, I shall not be moved.” —2014
14. “When we decide to be happy we accept the responsibility to bring happiness to someone else.” —2014
15. “Let the brain go to work, let it meet the heart and you will be able to forgive.” —2014
Watch Angelou recite her poem, “And Still I Rise”: