Maya Angelou’s Forever Stamp Features Misattributed Quote – and Oprah Bought a Ton!

the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp is unveiled
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled a Forever stamp honoring Maya Angelou on April 7, 2015. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Well, that's one way to make a "forever" memory. Late poet and visionary Maya Angelou was honored by the U.S. Postal Service Tuesday, April 7, with her own Forever stamp, and while the image on the stamp is of Angelou, the words that accompany it aren't from one of the poet’s many published works.

The quote in question — "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song" — was meant to call to mind Angelou's famed 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but the line was actually penned by Joan Walsh Anglund, who included it in her 1967 book of poems A Cup of Sun.

Once Anglund confirmed the line was hers, and not Angelou's, a spokesman for the USPS issued a statement explaining the snafu. "Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou's] many other works. . . . The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity," Mark Saunders wrote in an email to the Washington Post prior to the stamp's public unveiling.

Some 1,700 Angelou supportersincluding First Lady Michelle Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, singer Roberta Flack and Angelou's "daughter-sister-friend" Oprah Winfrey — attended the Postal Service unveiling in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, where no mention was made of the quote's origin.

Winfrey, 61, paid tribute to Angelou at the event, held nearly one year after her death in May 2014 at age 86. "I literally LOLd," the TV titan told attendees of her first impression of her friend's posthumous honor. "I knew that is exactly what Maya would have done. Oh yeah, she'd get a big kick out of this moment today."

A photo posted by Oprah (@oprah) on Apr 7, 2015 at 11:10am PDT


The Oprah Winfrey Network founder also appeared undeterred about promoting the stamp with the misattributed quote. After the ceremony, she told her 3.6 million Instagram followers that she snapped up a good amount of the new mementos. "Thank you @USPS for celebrating our American Queen," she wrote. "I just bought 100 stamps!"

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