11:43 AM

The Caged Bird Sings of Freedom

Celebrating Women’s History Month (and the time Maya Angelou Came to UHD)

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

To acknowledge Women’s History Month is to acknowledge that, too often, the achievements and contributions of women have been excluded or minimized in the historical or cultural record. As we celebrate this month, we certainly understand that our past informs our future.  

And while we honor the contributions women have made to the U.S., recognizing their accomplishments in science, business, the arts, sports, politics, and all aspects of our culture, we also celebrate the women who have impacted the history of UHD. But first, some background. 

What began as “Women’s History Week” in 1981 became Women’s History Month by 1987 after the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”  

Why was March chosen as the month to acknowledge women’s contributions in the U.S.? Largely because most of the major historical moments in American women’s journey toward equality occurred in March. A brief timeline shows us that: 

  • The first major march on Washington by women suffragists was on March 3, 1913; 
  • The National Woman’s Party, dedicated to getting women the right to vote, was formed in March 1917; 
  • Title IX was passed on March 1, 1972; and 
  • The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in the Senate on March 22, 1972. 

Maya Angelou Flyer RG-V-P-101But those aren't the only major moments in March. On March 29, 1984, novelist, poet, and activist Maya Angelou gave a public reading of her works in the UHD Downtown Center (located where the Commerce Street Building currently stands). Angelou, an icon in women's history, almost certainly read from her 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” a book that, since its publication, has never gone out of print. Angelou has been praised worldwide for not only her literary merits, but also for how her writing helped (and continues to help) millions of women tell their own stories of abuse and survival. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was nominated for the National Book Award in 1970. 

Suffice it to say that UHD is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month, and we’re proud to have hosted Maya Angelou on that March evening 40 years ago.


The flyer on this page advertising Maya Angelou's public reading was provided by Bryan Salazar, University Archivist.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.