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Papers of a poet

The artistic impulses, and drafts and rewrites and recitations that author Maya Angelou has created in her long career is gaining a permanent home in New York.

The poet's voluminous papers are going to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a historic library in Harlem that is part of the New York public library system. Noting the writer's connections to Harlem and the Schomburg, the center's director Howard Dodson described the collection as "great and unique" and provides a valuable resource for "generations now and those to come."

Dr. Maya Angelou at the National Council of Negro Women in 2009. (Richard A. Lipski / The Washington Post)

Angelou, 82, has had a very public career since she first mesmerized an international audience in 1969 with a memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." That best-seller was followed by 31 books, ranging from poetry to children's books to memoirs and adult fiction. Her full life includes work as an actress, filmmaker, singer, editor, teacher and activist.

All the manuscripts and correspondence with historic figures, such as Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and Coretta Scott King, are included in the literary bounty of more than 300 boxes. Some of the papers, according to the library, have never been seen before. There are notes for "Caged Bird," and her oft-quoted poems, "Phenomenal Woman" and 'And Still I Rise."

Angelou was selected by President Bill Clinton to write commemorative verse for his Inauguration in 1993. "On the Pulse of the Morning," read by Angelou at the swearing-in became another best-seller. The drafts are also included in the collection.

Among her many honors she received the National Medal of Arts in 2000.
"Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie," an anthology of poetry, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and she has won three Grammy Awards.

The Schomburg Center, about to celebrate its 85th year, holds over 10 million items related to world black history and culture

By Jacqueline Trescott  | October 27, 2010; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  howard dodson, maya angelou, poetry, schomburg center  
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