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.”

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.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts , Spotify or RSS.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.