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Hayes Writers Series will pay tribute to Maya Angelou on Thursday

  • Paying tribute
    Paying tribute  The Patrick Hayes Writers Series, in conjunction with the Department of English and the School of Education, will open the 2014-15 season Thursday by honoring the late Maya Angelou.  File photo
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The 2014-15 Patrick Hayes Writers Series, in collaboration with William & Mary’s Department of English and the School of Education, will commence on Sept. 4 with a special celebration of the life of the late Maya Angelou.

The presentation, which will be comprised of short readings of Angelou’s work by faculty and students and a performance by the Leah Glenn Dance Theatre Group, will take place from 5-7 p.m. at Tucker Hall Theater. Among those who will perform are professors Joanne Braxton, Hermine Pinson, Anne H. Charity Hudley, Henry Hart and Nancy Schoenberger.

The first hour will be devoted to the recitation of some of her poems. The second hour will be geared toward discussion of her work and her legacy. A reception will follow.

Angelou, who died on May 28 at age 86, spoke at William & Mary in 1993, and canceled a scheduled speech because of illness not long before her death.

“After she passed away, we thought it would be nice to do something because the students were very excited,” said Charity Hudley, one of the program’s organizers. “And we decided to do it on campus to celebrate her memory.”

Angelou was a poet, performer and political activist born in St. Louis in 1928. She grew up in a segregated society that she worked to change during the civil rights era. Angelou, who refused to speak for much of her childhood, revealed the scars of her past in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of a series of memoirs.

Following Angelou’s death, Braxton told National Public Radio that her willingness to reveal the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was unprecedented at the time.

“Maya Angelou brought about a paradigm shift in American literature and culture,” Braxton said, “so that the works, the gifts, the talents of women writers, including women writers of color, could be brought to the foreground and appreciated. She created an audience by her stunning example.”

Each year, the English Department invites contemporary, professional writers from all genres to visit the campus and share their work and experience as part of the Hayes Writers Series. Public events are held throughout the academic year.

In 1991 the College received funds from the estate of Patrick Hayes to create an endowment supporting a festival for writers. In recent years the festival has evolved into a series, with several events held during the academic year.