Angelou on Streetcar Driving, Strip-Club Dancing and Her Legacy

In Maya Angelou's latest, Mom & Me & Mom, the focus is on her relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter. But in an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin about the stories that make up that book, she reminds listeners of the experiences that add texture to her personal story.

While she doesn't yet want to discuss her legacy, it's clear that her life will be defined by much more than her writing. A few excerpts:

On her job as a streetcar conductor:

"I was the first black person to be on the streetcars of San Francisco, a conductorette. And my mother had asked me, 'What would you like to do this semester? You're ahead of your class, what would you like to do? You have to work.' So I said, 'I'd like to be a streetcar conductor.' She said, 'All right, go get the job.'

"[My mother] drove me [to work] as long as I kept the job, which was a few months. And she'd drive right behind the streetcar until daylight. And at daylight, she'd honk her horn and blow me a kiss. [Angelou's mother carried a gun in that car, to protect Angelou.]


On her dancing career:

"I did work in a strip club, but I didn't strip — I danced. And I became very popular. And the band — the band was so used to playing for the strippers … they just didn't even look anymore, they were so bored and blase. But then I came and I said, 'Do "Caravan," ' and I'd hit the floor and dance my skin off, almost. And I moved from a strip joint to a cabaret."

On whether she thinks about the word "legacy":

"I'm not ready to do that yet. Unless the creator's ready for me I'm not going anywhere. And instead of having 33 books or whatever they are, I might have 40."

Read more and listen to the story at NPR.

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