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By Steve Fellers

Dr. Maya Angelou, considered one of the great voices of contemporary literature, shared her wit and wisdom with a capacity crowd Thursday at Henderson State University’s Arkansas Hall.

“I’m happy to be in Arkansas,” Angelou said. “You can never leave home. I found my great rainbows in the sky in Arkansas.”
Angelou often mentioned “rainbows in the clouds,” referring to the positive influences in her life.

Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was sent to Stamps, Ark., in 1931 to live with her paternal grandmother. She and her brother lived “intermittently” in Stamps until 1940.

She has become an accomplished author, poet, historian, educator, actress, playwright, civil rights activist and producer.
Angelou has won a Grammy award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony award and an Emmy for various works. She has accumulated numerous honors.

In 1993, she delivered her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” during the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
During her lecture Thursday, Angelou recited poetry, sang and shared several stories. She stressed the importance and positive effects of literature, especially Southern literature.

“Poetry is capable of making a dark day brighter and a heavy load lighter,” she said. “When I’m down, I’ll sit and write something to lift me up.

“All of the literature, all of the dreams … they’re yours,” Angelou said.

She told how anyone can be a great influence on the lives of others, becoming their “rainbow in the clouds.”
“Thanks to Henderson for releasing thousands of rainbows,” she said.

The sold-out audience gave Angelou a standing ovation.

Angelou’s lecture was part of HSU’s C. Vann Woodward Lectures in Southern history and literature established in 1990.