In 1993, which of the following poets recited their poem at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration?
Considering Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, Elizabeth Alexander and Amanda Gorman, the answer is: Maya Angelou.
In 1993, Maya Angelou became the second poet ever to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration when she read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning." The first was Robert Frost, who recited "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. To date, only four presidents have had poets read at their inaugurations.
Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, Dr. Maya Angelou was never named an official United States Poet Laureate, but few have reached her level of cultural significance. Her verses are at the very heart of the American experience, even despite the fact that she never set out to be a poet. Angelou's incredibly defiant and adventurous life left a significant footprint in American culture, even decades after the fact.
Although Angelou rose to prominence with the release of the publication I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her life was marked by civil rights activist work, theatrical and musical pursuits, and filmmaking long before that. After graduating from George Washington High School in San Francisco, Angelou gave birth to her son, Guy, before becoming the first Black American streetcar conductor. She explained to Oprah Winfrey, about the position:
“I saw women on the street cars with their little changer belts. They had caps with bibs on them and form-fitting jackets. I loved their uniforms. I said that is the job I want.”
Yet, this achievement is one in a long line of firsts for the legendary poet and activist. Angelou went on to join the Harlem Writers Guild in 1950, alongside other significant writers such as James Baldwin. After hearing Martin Luther King speak, Angelou decided to get involved in the fight for civil rights. She took on a position as northern coordinator of Dr. King's SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), which she continued until moving to Africa with her son in 1962. After freelance and editing work in Ghana and Cairo, Angelou returned to the United States and was quickly encouraged by Baldwin and Robert Loomis, an editor at Random House, to write an autobiography. Angelou's work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was an instant success. It won the National Book Award, and became a staple in universities for its discussion of race, abuse and violence.
Watch legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou deliver the Clinton's inaugural poem below.