In 2021, Amanda Gorman became a household name after a stunning recitation of her poem, The Hill We Climb, at President Biden’s inauguration. At 22, she was the youngest person to earn this honor, and her earnest delivery captured the nation’s hearts and interest in this award-winning poet and social activist. Her passionate belief in the political power of words shapes her poetry, which focuses on race, feminism, oppression, marginalization, and the African diaspora. Gorman is a published author and an accomplished poet earning the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017 while studying at Harvard University. Gorman has also served as a youth delegate for the United Nations and founded the nonprofit group One Pen One Page. This leadership group promotes literacy and creative writing to underserved youth.
To earn these many achievements was not always easy. Gorman grew up in Los Angeles and struggled with auditory processing and a speech impediment. During this time, she developed a love for reading and writing, which became an outlet for her as she overcame these challenges and improved her pronunciation. She also continually faced her fear of public speaking through sustained practice, eventually mastering it. Following the inauguration, Gorman continues to shine as her work resonates with our nation and the world. Since the inauguration, she was invited to write a poem for the Super Bowl, becoming the first person to do so, and also became a best-selling author. Gorman’s ambitions continue to grow as she aspires to be President of the United States, with plans to run in 2036.
"Seeing the ways that I as a young Black woman can inspire people is something I want to continue in politics. I don’t want to just speak works; I want to turn them into realities and actions.” Amanda Gorman, in Glamour Magazine’s 2018 “College Women of the Year” on her future bid for President of the United States.
Maya Angelou was an award-winning writer, an Emmy and Tony nominated performer, and an accomplished singer and dancer. In 1993, Angelou was the first Black poet to recite her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, becoming one of only four poets to do so. Her poem called for our country to embrace our differences and hope for a better future. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her poetry has been read at the United Nations, featured in films, and recorded for audio release. Angelou has also published autobiographies, essays, plays, short fiction, screenplays, children's fiction, and a line of Hallmark greeting cards.
Angelou suffered many tragedies throughout her life and yet persevered despite these traumas. She is a self-described survivor, which accurately represents her life and the legacy she leaves behind. The endurance of her legacy is evident in the continued popularity of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Released in 1969, her widely read autobiography is still taught in classrooms today, demonstrating its lasting appeal across generations and people of all colors. Her poetic works are infused with a persistent optimism even when describing the racism, sexism, and other challenges Black women face, with much of her touching prose celebrating their unique resilience and accomplishments. Angelou passed away in 2014 but will continue to survive in our memory as the first Black woman to appear on our nation’s currency. The U.S. Mint will soon feature Angelou on the quarter in honor of her many contributions to the fabric of our society.
"In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it's imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be, and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be." Angelou in a 1990 interview for Paris Review.