Documentary On Maya Angelou Features Her Work With Malcolm X In Ghana

Documentary On Maya Angelou Features Her Work With Malcolm X In Ghana

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

Referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou, best known for her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" led a prolific life.  As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries.

The first feature documentary about her life "American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise" will premiere  Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS during Black History Month. PBS Distribution will release the film on DVD the same day, with additional bonus features, and on Digital HD February 22.

From her upbringing in the Depression-era South, her early performing career to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, trace aspects of her life through unseen footage,  rare archival photographs and videos.  Revealing hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments, the film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

“It was a unique privilege to be the first filmmakers to tell Dr. Angelou’s full story and exciting to uncover stories that most people hadn’t heard,” said co-director and co-producer Bob Hercules.

“The film reflects on how the events of history, culture and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life, and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism,”  adds co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack ("African Roots American Soil").

"Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise" premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award at AFI Docs. It was featured at notable film festivals worldwide, including Full Frame, Sheffield, IDFA and Seattle, winning 17 awards on three continents, and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Dr. Maya Angelou, circa late 70searly 80s Credit- Getty Images
Dr. Maya Angelou, San Francisco, CA, circa 1970. Credit- Image by © BettmannCORBIS Courtesy of Caged Bird Legacy
Dr. Maya Angelou. Credit- Getty Images