They Believed: Maya Angelou’s ‘On the Pulse of Morning’

When Maya Angelou stepped to the podium on a cold January day in 1993, she became the first African American and the first woman to offer an inaugural poem.

Elizabeth Alexander
Elizabeth Alexander
Courtesy of the author

And what a poem it was.

“On the Pulse of Morning” garnered immediate praise for its sweeping portrait of American history and wisdom.

Elizabeth Alexander remembers that moment — and contrasts it with her own time on the same stage — on MPR News with Kerri Miller, in the first installment of an occasional series, “They Believed.”

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At this pivotal moment in U.S. history, we want to look back at the words of America’s firebrands, visionaries and truth-tellers. What do they reveal about who we were then – and who we are now?


Elizabeth Alexander is a poet and scholar. She currently leads The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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