First Feature Documentary On The Author/Activist Features Exclusive Interviews With Dr. Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Bill And Hillary Clinton, And Others
Year-Long #InspiringWomanPBS Online Campaign Launches This Week At pbs.org/americanmasters
Dr. Maya Angelou on the set of “Oprah’s Master Class,” circa January 2011. Credit: OWN
Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House), she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. The first feature documentary about her life, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) during Black History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN‘s American Masters series. PBS Distribution will release the film on DVD the same day, with additional bonus features, and on Digital HD February 22. The film title is based on one of our favorite poems by Dr. Angelou, “Still I Rise” from her poetry collection And Still I Rise (Random House).
Dr. Maya Angelou, circa late 70s/early 80s. Credit: Getty Images
Dr. Maya Angelou is best known for her best-selling autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (Random House), photo taken November 3, 1971. Credit: © WF/AP/Corbis
With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise reveals 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 (in alphabetical order) Diahann Carroll, actress; Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State; Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the U.S.’ Common, hip-hop artist/actor; Jules Feiffer, writer/cartoonist; Nikki Giovanni, writer; Louis Gossett, Jr., actor; Guy B. Johnson, Dr. Angelou’s son; Quincy Jones, musician/producer/composer; Robert Loomis, Dr. Angelou’s editor; Don Martin, dancer/opened for Dr. Angelou; Louise Meriwether, writer; Eugene Redmond, professor of English literature; Valerie Simpson, singer/songwriter; John Singleton, director; Cicely Tyson, actress; Alice Windom, friend/roommate in Ghana (1963-65); Oprah Winfrey, global media leader/philanthropist and Alfre Woodard, actress.
Dr. Maya Angelou, circa 1970. Credit: Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Dr. Maya Angelou called Sonoma, California, home in the late 70s/early 80s. Credit: Magnum
“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.
Louis Gossett, Jr., is interviewed in “American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise.” He and Dr. Angelou were part of the casts of off-Broadway play “The Blacks” (1961) by Jean Genet and TV miniseries “Roots” (1977). Credit: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders | Photo credit required at all times.
“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,” said co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack.
Dr. Maya Angelou. Credit: Getty Images
Dr. Maya Angelou. Credit: Ron Groeper
Dr. Maya Angelou, San Francisco, CA, circa 1970. Credit: Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS. Courtesy of Caged Bird Legacy
“It is bittersweet that Dr. Angelou takes her rightful place in the American Masters series posthumously,” said executive producer Michael Kantor, Co-Executive Producer and American Masters series Executive Producer. “We are fortunate that Bob and Rita captured these insightful interviews with her just prior to her death so we can all learn from her wisdom firsthand.” Continue reading