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.
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 Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis 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 (American Masters – Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, American Masters – Bill T. Jones: A Good Man, Forgiving Dr. Mengele).
“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.
WNET Education will work with local PBS stations and local arts organizations across the country to engage diverse audiences in the campaign through a series of free, community-based screening events. They will also create educational resources based on the film for PBS LearningMedia. Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, #InspiringWomanPBS is the latest example of American Masters and WNET’s commitment to educate and entertain audiences beyond broadcast.
American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is a co-production of The People’s Poet Media Group, LLC, THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET, and ITVS in association with Artemis Rising. Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack are directors. David E. Simpson and Lillian E. Benson are editors. Keith Walker is director of photography, with original music by Stephen James Taylor. Rita Coburn Whack, Bob Hercules, Jay Alix and Una Jackman are producers. Reuben Cannon, Marquetta Glass, Steve Sarowitz, Michael Kantor, Regina Scully, Chris Gardner, Raymond Lambert, Susan Lacy and Sally Jo Fifer are executive producers. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.
WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural.