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Schomburg Center Acquires The Maya Angelou Collection of Personal Papers and Materials Documenting 40 Years of the Writer’s Literary Career and Phenomenal Rise to World Acclaim

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Remarkable Trove includes Revisions; Letters, Drafts, Notes and More

(New York, NY … Oct. 29, 2010) The papers of Dr. Maya Angelou, focusing on the great writer’s literary career spanning some 40 years and chronicling her ascent to reign as a compassionate voice of hope, love, inspiration and joy for humanity, have been acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, a research division of the New York Public Library.

The acquisition of the collection – which will be housed and archived at the Schomburg Center and available to the public after 18 months of processing – was officially announced today at the Center during a special commemorative ceremony. New York Public Library President Dr. Paul LeClerc joined Schomburg Center Director Howard Dodson to share the news.

“This remarkable collection documents the life of a legendary writer whose eloquent, honest and brave words have inspired generations," said Dr. LeClerc. "Through Dr. Angelou's personal letters, drafts, handwritten manuscripts and so on, the public will get a privileged look at the life and creative processes of an American icon. We are immensely pleased and very proud to have Dr. Angelou's important collection at The Schomburg Center, an institution that stands for open access to information, the preservation of culture and the advancement of knowledge."

“As the Schomburg’s National Membership Chair, now in her10th year of service, Dr. Angelou already has a home here in the heart of Harlem,” said Mr. Dodson. “But this great, unique collection encompassing her journey to greatness beyond the community, the city and the nation, has special significance for The Schomburg; it is a valuable legacy for generations now and those to come and it is being acquired on the eve of the Center’s 85th anniversary. We are indeed happy she and these treasures are with us.”

Dr. Angelou said she always expected her collection to find a home at The Schomburg. “The Schomburg is a repository of the victories and the losses of the African American experience,” she said. “I am grateful that it exists so that all the children, Black and White, Asian, Spanish-Speaking, Native American, and Aleutian can know there is a place where they can go and find the truth of the peoples’ history.”

The Collection comprises a treasure trove of rare, never-before-seen personal and professional papers, from yellow notepads to original draft pages, the wealth of which span her writing career. There is early original correspondence with such luminaries as James Baldwin, who first encouraged her to write her story, and Malcolm X. These early writings foretell the scribe to come and the impact she would have on the world.

In the Collection are notes for Dr. Angelou’s acclaimed autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which launched her career as an internationally known author in 1969; and for her poems Phenomenal Woman, Still I Rise and On the Pulse of Morning, the latter written at the request of William Clinton and delivered at his Presidential Inauguration in 1993, making her the second poet in U.S. history to have this honor and delivering an Inaugural poem.

In addition to Caged Bird, among her published works represented in either original handwritten manuscript, typescript, proofs or galleys are Hallelujah, The Welcome Table, I Shall Not Be Moved, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Heart of a Womanand All God’s Children, as well as manuscripts for unpublished work and dozens of poems. Of interest is a voluminous file on Angelou’s poem On the Pulse of Morning — from the creation to public reaction.

Other items in the collection include:
 

  • Personal and professional correspondence with writers Baldwin, Marshall Davis, Mari Evans, Hoyt Fuller, Rosa Guy, Chester Himes, Dudley Randall, Sarah E. Wright; human rights activist Malcolm X, photographer Gordon Parks, jazz singer Abby Lincoln; her longtime editor Robert Loomis, and others.
  • Office files, including early mock-ups and plans for the Hallmark greeting card project, and sentiments from writers and friends such as the late Coretta Scott King. 
  • Printed materials and poignant notes from fans and admirers explaining the impact her work had on their lives and the lessons they learned from her words.

 

Dr. Angelou has received 60 honorary degrees, written more than 30 books, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her volume Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971), won three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums, and in 1995 was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list. She has served on two Presidential committees and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000. Her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia (1972) was the first original script by a Black woman to be produced. Her latest book Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart will be published by Random House this December.

About The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
A research unit of The New York Public Library, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is recognized as one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. A cultural center as well as a repository, this Harlem-based modern research library, with holdings of over ten million items , also sponsors a wide array of interpretive programs, including exhibitions, scholarly and public forums, and cultural performances. For more than eighty-five years, The Center has collected, preserved access to materials documenting black life throughout the world, and promoted the study and inspiration of black history and culture. Visit schomburgcenter.org for more information.

About the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. Its renowned research collections are located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Eighty-seven branch libraries provide access to circulating collections and a wide range of other services in neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org.

Contacts:
Bernice Elizabeth Green | 212.491-2209 | schomburgpr@nypl.org
Angela Montefinise | 212.592.7506 | angela_montefinise@nypl.org

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