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The first documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou, created by some of the people who knew her best.
The first documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou, created by some of the people who knew her best.
1,220 backers pledged $153,346 to help bring this project to life.

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$153,346

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"The World Needs This Maya Angelou Documentary" - New York Magazine

"Today in important news: a documentary is being made about the life of Maya Angelou." - Man Repeller

"...It is only right that her legacy continues ... with the help of the new documentary." - Saint Heron

"It’s also yet another case of 'I can’t believe a documentary doesn’t already exist about this person.'" - Entertainment Weekly

"...a much-deserved upcoming feature-length documentary on the late, great Maya Angelou - what will be the very first of its kind!" - IndieWire

"But while bigotry could get you the boot from Angelou’s home, working with her often meant an invite into her enormous extended family of friends." - Vogue

"Using each of her experiences, good and bad as life lessons, the documentary covers everything from Angelou’s time as a dancer earning money for her family to being named poet laureate of this nation." - Black America Web

A word from supporter, Alfre Woodard:

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We have financed the Maya Angelou Documentary with grants and out of our own pockets until now. Our Kickstarter goal represents the remaining cost of getting this film to the finish line. 

We can't accept funds from people interviewed in an American Masters film, so it's up to all of you. Join the campaign.

Twitter @mayaangeloudoc // Instagram @mayaangeloudoc // Facebook

The Maya Angelou Documentary

The Maya Angelou Documentary is the first documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou. As friends from Dr. Angelou's inner circle, we have been granted remarkable and unmatched access to Dr. Angelou’s life. After years of working on this film, we are honored to present her incredible journey to the rest of the world.

Dr. Angelou has become a global symbol of peace, humility, and freedom–– but parts of her story are not well known. The Maya Angelou Documentary will reflect 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. We hope to shed light on the untold aspects of her life and to educate audiences about her story.

About the documentary

We will examine Dr. Angelou's remarkable life––from her birth in 1928 to her passing in May of 2014––which spanned the Jim Crow South, the Civil Rights, the Women’s, and Art Movements, along with her impact on celebrity and mainstream popular culture.

Our team filmed Dr. Angelou at the Smithsonian Institution in April of 2014 when her portrait was unveiled for the National Portrait Gallery and at the 2014 Women2Women Conference in Atlanta, amongst other momentous events. We last interviewed Dr. Angelou in January of 2014.

Why now 

This is a documentary for those who miss Dr. Angelou's voice, and for future generations who need to hear her impactful words. Help us memorialize Dr. Angelou––her work, her life, her legacy. 

We are also in a logistical time crunch to finish the documentary for its broadcast premiere on the PBS series American Masters. With a story so vast and varied, there are tremendous archival licensing rights costs for images and footage that we need to account for. In addition, we need to finish the final edits, plus mixing, and color correction.

Who is in the film

We were able to interview a vibrant array of close family, friends, celebrities, academics, and political figures who shared intimate insights into Dr. Angelou's life and who were deeply affected by her work.

Some of the interviews featured include: President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, and Dr. Angelou's son, Guy Johnson, plus many more. 

Our rewards

Dr. Angelou's life was well lived and drew inspiration from the life around her. We will bring backers into this world through rewards donated by her family, friends, and contemporaries.

Some of our featured rewards include artwork by some of Dr. Angelou's friends, Faith Ringgold, Cristobal Gabarron and Phoebe Beasley, and a copy of "On the Pulse of Morning" signed by Dr. Angelou. Scroll down to see some of the work from the artists involved.  

We have also invited a series of talented contemporary artists to create limited edition t shirts inspired by Dr. Angelou. Their work has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide and is in the collection of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum.

Our featured collaborators

World class artists have joined us in making this campaign a success, many for the limited edition Kickstarter rewards, to your right. 

Faith Ringgold's MAYA’S QUILT OF LIFE, which Oprah Winfrey commissioned for Dr. Angelou’s 61st birthday. We will be making this a limited edition print for this campaign.
Faith Ringgold's MAYA’S QUILT OF LIFE, which Oprah Winfrey commissioned for Dr. Angelou’s 61st birthday. We will be making this a limited edition print for this campaign.

 Below are examples of some of our collaborators' past work.

A sample of Mickalene Thomas' work - Din, une très belle négresse #2, 2012.
A sample of Mickalene Thomas' work - Din, une très belle négresse #2, 2012.
A sample of Phoebe Beasley's work - Fine China, 1993.
A sample of Phoebe Beasley's work - Fine China, 1993.
A sample of Derrick Adams' work - Cultural Center Joined by Public Art Commission, 2013.
A sample of Derrick Adams' work - Cultural Center Joined by Public Art Commission, 2013.
A sample of Nina Chanel Abney's work - ATM3, 2015.
A sample of Nina Chanel Abney's work - ATM3, 2015.
The Hank Willis Thomas Limited Edition Tshirt design
The Hank Willis Thomas Limited Edition Tshirt design
A sample of Hank Willis Thomas' work - I Am A Man,  2009.
A sample of Hank Willis Thomas' work - I Am A Man, 2009.
Enlightened Universe, Cristobal Gabarron, 2015
Enlightened Universe, Cristobal Gabarron, 2015
The "ANGEL" Statue that commemorated Dr. Angelou's poem, "Amazement Awaits"
The "ANGEL" Statue that commemorated Dr. Angelou's poem, "Amazement Awaits"
Phoebe Beasely's piece, "Battle of the Big Horns," which is now available.
Phoebe Beasely's piece, "Battle of the Big Horns," which is now available.

The life and times of Dr. Angelou

Even as friends of Dr. Angelou's, we found ourselves surprised by the scope of her lifetime achievements. As we began filming, we revealed the many mysteries to her story, which we look forward to sharing with you. Here are just a few of the incredible accomplishments we will shed light on in The Maya Angelou Documentary:

1928: Born as Marguerite Annie Johnson. 

1954-58: Dr. Angelou toured Europe under the State Department with a production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin Ailey, and recorded her first album, Miss Calypso.

1960: Dr. Angelou worked as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

1960: Performed in the radical off Broadway play The Blacks with Cicely Tyson, Lou Gossett, Jr., James Earl Jones, Godfrey Cambridge, and others. 

1961: Dr. Angelou served as the editor for The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt. The following year she moved to Ghana where she taught and was the feature editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times.  

1965: After meeting Malcolm X in Ghana, Dr. Angelou moved back the U.S. to join his civil rights efforts. 

1969: Dr. Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings published by Random House. 

1977: Dr. Angelou received an honorary degree from Wake Forest University, where she taught American studies for 32 years. Since then, Dr. Angelou has received over 70 of these honorary degrees from institutions around the world. 

1993: Dr. Angelou read her poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. 

2000: Dr. Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts. 

2010: Dr. Angelou receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

2013: Dr. Angelou publishes her 7th autobiography Mom & Me & Mom. 

Dr. Angelou was the first…

  • African American woman to become a member of the Director’s Guild 
  • African American woman to have a Nonfiction best-seller
  • Recipient to receive the Voice of Peace Award 
  • Black female director and producer for 20th Century Fox 
  • African American woman to have her script made into a film 
  • African American female cable car conductor at age 14 in San Francisco 
  • Poet to recite an inaugural address since Robert Frost spoke for President JFK 

Dr. Angelou died on May 28, 2014, having written 37 books. The reaction from the public was powerful, poetic, and loving. Dr. Angelou was a national treasure. The Maya Angelou Documentary hopes to assure that though she will be missed, Dr. Angelou will not be forgotten.

Who we are

Bob Hercules (Director, Media Process Group) Bob Hercules directed two recent films for the PBS series American Masters: Bill T. Jones: A Good Man and Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance. He won the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival for his acclaimed film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele and his 2007 film, Senator Obama Goes to Africa, played in over 100 countries. 

Rita Coburn Whack (Director, RCW Media Productions) Rita Coburn Whack was Producer of the Award-Winning Maya Angelou Show on Oprah Radio, Maya Angelou Black History Month Specials, Manager of Maya Angelou’s Facebook site of 5.5 million fans, and produced three Emmy-Award winning television documentaries airing on C-Span and the History Channel. 

Michael Kantor (Executive Producer, American Masters) An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Michael Kantor has created films for PBS, HBO, Bravo and 20th Century Fox. Kantor’s documentary series include Broadway: The American Musical (hosted by Julie Andrews), Make ‘Em Laugh (hosted by Billy Crystal) and Superheroes (hosted by Liev Schreiber). Kantor served as executive producer of Give Me the Banjo with Steve Martin, and directed Quincy Jones: In the Pocket for American Masters in 2001.

Reuben Cannon (Executive Producer, Reuben Cannon Entertainment) Reuben Cannon was the Producer of Down in the Delta, directed by Maya Angelou, The Women of Brewster Place (with Oprah Winfrey), and Get on the Bus (Spike Lee), and producer of ten Tyler Perry films, including Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and Madea's Family Reunion. 

Marquetta Glass (Executive Producer, MGS Innovations Group) Marquetta Glass has produced numerous programs for Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Channel including Spirit Table with Dr. Maya Angelou, Celebrate Christmas with Maya Angelou, and Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Run Away. Glass also created the 2011 business alliance with BET to produce Soul Mates featuring Maya Angelou & Common.

Chris Gardner and Raymond Lambert are serving as Producers.

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge will be timing. We want to make this film and tell this story as soon as we possibly can, but there may be production delays along the way because of interview scheduling and rights issues.

This will in turn delay the expected delivery for rewards associated with the film itself. If this does happen, we will be sure to update our backers and be completely transparent.

That all said, based on years of experience with film, television, and documentary production, we are confident we will overcome any obstacles we face.

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Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 5 or more About $5

    TEACHER'S REWARD - LESSON PLAN

    Receive an exclusive PDF of a curated lesson plan including suggested educational materials for a 'Dr Maya Angelou' inspirational day at school.

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    PDF TIMELINE OF DR. ANGELOU'S INCREDIBLE LIFE, COMPILED BY THE FILMMAKERS

    Receive a timeline of Dr. Angelou’s life and work, which will be delivered in a PDF.

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    DIGITAL SCRIPT OF THE FILM

    Get a digital copy of the script, signed by the filmmakers, with their notes included. Plus, the digital reward above.

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    COPY OF THE FILM

    Receive a digital download of The Maya Angelou Documentary when it’s available. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    LIST OF DR. ANGELOU'S 75 MOST READ BOOKS

    Receive a PDF of the 75 most read books from Dr. Angelou’s personal library. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    EXCLUSIVE TEACHER'S PDF PACKAGE

    Receive all of our PDF rewards - Lesson Plan, Timeline of Dr. Angelou's life, and 75 most read books from Dr. Angelou’s personal library. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    THE MAYA ANGELOU DOCUMENTARY TOTE

    Receive a limited edition Maya Angelou Documentary tote. Only available during this campaign. Designed by Gene Tinnie, a friend to Dr. Angelou. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    LIMITED EDITION SHIRT #1, BY MICKALENE THOMAS

    Receive a limited edition shirt designed exclusively for our campaign by artist Mickalene Thomas (Male S, M, L, XL ). Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    LIMITED EDITION SHIRT #2, BY NINA CHANEL ABNEY

    Receive a limited edition shirt designed exclusively for our campaign by artist Nina Chanel Abney (Male S, M, L, XL). Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    LIMITED EDITION SHIRT #3, BY DERRICK ADAMS

    Receive a limited edition shirt designed exclusively for our campaign by artist Derrick Adams (Male S, M, L, XL). Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    LIMITED EDITION SHIRT #4, BY HANK WILLIS THOMAS

    Receive a limited edition shirt designed exclusively for our campaign by artist Hank Willis Thomas (Male S, M, L, XL). Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    AMAZEMENT AWAITS POEM PRINT

    Receive a limited edition print of the poem Amazement Awaits, which was written by Dr. Angelou for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Signed by Dr. Angelou and Cristobal Gabarron. Only available during this campaign. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    EXCLUSIVE PRINT OF FAITH RINGGOLD'S "MAYA'S QUILT OF LIFE"

    Receive a limited edition print of MAYA’S QUILT OF LIFE by artist Faith Ringgold, which Oprah Winfrey commissioned for Dr. Angelou’s 61st birthday. The print is 18" by 24" with a matte finish. Only available during this campaign. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    EXCLUSIVE PRINT OF PHOEBE BEASLEY'S "SISTER SOOKIE'S FUNERAL"

    Receive a limited edition print of SISTER SOOKIE’S FUNERAL by artist Phoebe Beasley, which Dr. Angelou owned and drew inspiration from. The print is 20" by 16" with a matte finish. Only available during this campaign. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    EXCLUSIVE PRINT OF PHOEBE BEASLEY'S "BATTLE OF THE BIG HORNS"

    Receive a limited edition print of BATTLE OF THE BIG HORNS by artist Phoebe Beasley, which hung in Dr. Angelou's home and reflected her love of music. The print is 24" by 48" with a matte finish. Only available during this campaign. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    THREE LIMITED EDITION SHIRTS

    Receive your choice of three limited edition shirts, which were designed exclusively for our campaign (Male S, M, L) . Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    SIGNED “HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT” MOVIE POSTER

    Receive a limited edition “How to Make An American Quilt” movie poster signed by the cast with papers from the artist. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    PAIR OF TICKETS TO THE NYC SCREENING

    Receive two tickets to the NYC screening of The Maya Angelou Documentary where you can meet the directors and producers at a VIP gathering before the screening. Location to be announced in the month prior.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    PAIR OF TICKETS TO THE LA SCREENING

    Receive two tickets to the LA screening of The Maya Angelou Documentary where you can meet the directors and producers at a VIP gathering before the screening. Location to be announced in the month prior.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    PAIR OF TICKETS TO THE CHICAGO SCREENING

    Receive two tickets to the Chicago screening of The Maya Angelou Documentary where you can meet the directors and producers at a VIP gathering before the screening. Location to be announced in the month prior.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    Pledge $550 or more About $550

    “AND STILL I RISE” POEM SIGNED BY DR. ANGELOU

    Receive a copy of Dr. Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise,” signed by Dr. Angelou with the words “Joy! Maya Angelou,” on card stock. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    1 OF THE 3 RARE ORIGINAL COPIES OF DR. ANGELOU'S INAUGURAL POEM "ON THE PULSE OF MORNING," SIGNED BY DR. ANGELOU

    Receive one of the three remaining copies of Dr. Angelou's poem "On the Pulse of Morning," signed by Dr. Angelou, which she read at President Bill Clinton's inauguration. Plus, the digital rewards above.

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    WALK ON ROLE IN A REUBEN CANNON TELEVISION SERIES, FEATURE FILM, OR MADE FOR TV FILM

    Join the cast of a Reuben Cannon Entertainment production with this non-speaking, walk-on role in a television series, feature film, or made for TV film. Also take home a picture of you and the director. Plus, the digital rewards above.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Restrictions may apply.

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    BRONZE CAST OF "THE ANGEL" BY CRISTOBAL GABARRON

    Receive a bronze cast of a sculpture by artist Cristobal Gabarron, which Dr. Angelou named "THE ANGEL" and placed on the piano in her living room. Each sculpture will be numbered and inscribed with the artist's signature and stands on a marble base. Includes a print of the poem "Amazement Awaits" signed "Joy!" by Dr. Angelou. Plus, your name in the rolling credits of the film and the digital awards above.

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    DOCUMENTARY PATRON

    Make a significant difference in the making of this documentary and see your name in the credits. You will also be one of the first to see the film with an invitation to a screening in one of the host cities listed above. All four t-shirt designs will be included in this reward as well as a print of your choice. Plus, all digital rewards.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Restrictions may apply.

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    STAINLESS STEEL CAST OF "THE ANGEL" BY CRISTOBAL GABARRON

    Receive a stainless steel cast of a sculpture by artist Cristobal Gabarron, which Dr. Angelou named "The Angel" and placed on the piano in her living room. Each sculpture will be numbered and inscribed with the artist's signature and stands on a marble base. Includes a print of the poem "Amazement Awaits" signed "Joy!" by Dr. Angelou. Plus, your name in the rolling credits of the film and the digital awards above.

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    CHRIS GARDNER SPEAKING EVENT

    Inspirational and motivational speaker Chris Gardner, author of bestselling autobiography THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, the man Will Smith portrayed in the film of the same name, and friend of Dr. Angelou’s, will speak at your event. Plus, the digital rewards above.

    Travel and accommodations not included. Restrictions may apply.

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Funding period

- (35 days)