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In collaboration with Smithsonian colleagues from the National Museum of African Art, the National Portrait Gallery hosted an event on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in which both museums paid tribute to Maya Angelou, one of the most revered authors in the United States. Angelou, whose eighty-sixth birthday was April 4—the day before—commented on what she considered was one of her great achievements over eight decades—patience. "You can only have patience if you have courage," she stated, adding that "Reverend [Martin Luther] King had great patience."
During the event at the McEvoy Auditorium in the Donald W. Reynolds Center, a portrait of Angelou by Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin was unveiled. Assisting Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and NMAfA director Johnnetta Cole in the unveiling was Angelou's friend and protégé Oprah Winfrey, and former ambassador Andrew Young. 
Angelou discussed the works and humanity of Martin Luther King at length; King, who was killed on Angelou's fortieth birthday, was a great friend of the author and a colleague in the fight for civil rights. Of him she also noted, "People can only do what they know to do. Reverend King did what he knew to do. He was compassionate; he was kind." Angelou spoke at length on civil rights, and her discussion culminated in the observation that the fight for rights includes work on behalf of all protected classes (protected class is the legal term used to describe a group of people who are protected from discrimination by federal law), regardless of gender, race, religion, and individuals with physical and mental challenges. "We need more people involved in the civil rights movement—civil rights, not just race rights."
Read more about the event, on our blog: http://face2face.si.edu/my_weblog/2014/04/maya-angelou-poet-playwright-author-activist.html
Maya Angelou / Ross R. Rossin / Oil on canvas, 2013 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Andrew J. Young Foundation; © Ross R. Rossin


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