Maya Angelou: Forgiveness is the answer

Power Players

Power Players

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about Maya Angelou, the writer, think again.

In her most recent autobiography, “Mom & Me & Mom,” Angelou reveals how she learned to forgive her mother after having been abandoned by her for 10 years as a child, and also describes the time when she was nearly beaten to death.

Of her mother, Angelou describes how she grew over time to let go of her resentment – progressing from calling her “lady” to instead calling her “mother” – and ultimately forgiving her.

“She loved me and she respected me,” Angelou told “Power Players,” going on to explain how her mother reacted when she became impregnated at age 16 by a boy whom she did not love.

“She asked me: ‘do you love him?’ I said ‘No.’ ‘Does he love you?’ I said ‘no,’” Angelou recalled of her conversation with her mother. “She said, ‘Well, we’re not going to ruin three lives because of convention. We are going to have a wonderful baby and a wonderful life.’”

“I so respected that,” Angelou said. “I was thinking she would kill me or put me out of the house. Love heals you see?”

Courage and perseverance – these are among the virtues Angelou’s mother lived by example and taught her daughter, according to the book. When a teenage Angelou wanted to be the first black “conductorette” on the San Francisco streetcar lines but was turned down because of her race, it was her mother who encouraged her not to take no for an answer. When the employment office would not even give Angelou an application, Angelou took her mother’s advice and returned every day for over two weeks, waiting with patience and resolve, until she finally earned an interview – and got the job.

While waiting for her moment to convince the boss that she should be hired, Angelou heard the white workers making fun of her. “They would walk by me and make all kind of nasty racial slurs,” she said. “Just to torment me. And I sat there.”

Eventually, Angelou would work side-by-side with those same people.

In the book, Angelou details other hardships, including the experience of being beaten – nearly to death – by a jealous lover. But that experience too, Angelou said, required forgiveness.

“I somehow knew I had something to do in this world, and so I let him go,” Angelou said. “You must forgive. It’s for your own sake – to rid yourself of that weight.”

But Angelou writes in the book that she almost chose a path of revenge rather than forgiveness.

“My mother gave me a gun and said, ‘go blow him away. I promise you, you will not do a day,’" Angelou recalled. “I called the man, and he walked out on the street, and I walked out of the place I was in holding this gun, and he said ‘please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me, please, please don't hurt me. I'm sorry.’”

Instead of shooting him, Angelou made the decision to let him go.

“I said, 'You disgust me, go away, go away,'” Angelou said. “And, I have not really, I’m not carrying him another moment.”

To learn more surprising details about Maya Angelou’s life story, and her views on racism today, check out this episode of “Power Players.”

And to the see the interview as it aired on ABC's "This Week," click HERE or visit

ABC News’ Brian Hartman and Patrick O’Gara contributed to this episode.

Sam Griffin, Mark Barrosa, Phil Geyelin and Neal Gettinger contributed to the production.