By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Earlier in the week, The National Book Foundation announced that the author and poet, Maya Angelou, would receive the Literarian Award for her contributions to the literary community. Every year, the Foundation presents the award to an individual for outstanding service to the American literary community, and whose life and work has enhanced the cultural knowledge of readers. Former winners of the award pick the nominees, and the Foundation’s Board of Directors makes the final selection.
While you may remember Maya Angelou from your class readings like “Kin,” there’s more to this author than the homework assignments your teacher gave you. Not only did Angelou participate in the African American Civil Rights Movement alongside Martin Luther King and lifelong friend Rosa Parks, but she also encouraged black women to get into the film industry. Despite having little to no experience in movie-making, Angelou wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black, a ten-part documentary series on the blues music genre and its connection with African American heritage. Not to mention, she became the first black woman to write a screenplay, for the Swedish film Georgia, Georgia.
It wasn’t until 1969 that Angelou received international success and fame as an author for releasing her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which described her transformation from being a victim of racism to a self-assured, young woman and civil rights activist. However, despite the success, Angelou has never won a top literary prize such as the Literarian Award. When asked about her lack of awards, Angelou stated she never worried much about it and was happy for the previous winners. “I know that makes me sound like all goody two-shoes,” she said. “But only one name can be chosen for a prize… And, here now, I’m getting an award from the National Book Foundation for lifetime achievement of service to the community! It’s a blessing. It’s incredible.”
Despite Angelou’s frail health, she is expected to make a brief appearance at the awards and dinner ceremony on November 20. Congratulations, to Ms. Angelou! It’s about time to the book world honored such a legend…