Feb 2, 2013 / 7:20 am
In the midst of talking black history with Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys, Maya Angelou breaks out singing a hymn a cappella.
The acclaimed poet and author wants to show Keys, a New Yorker, what "lining out," call-and-response singing that is popular in black churches in the American South, sounds like.
That teaching moment is one of many during Angelou's third annual Black History Month program, "Telling Our Stories," airing on more than 175 public radio stations nationwide. The U.S. designates February as a month to remember people and events important in black American history.
Angelou says she is obligated to share her knowledge and experience with younger people like Keys, in a way that is not "preaching" but gives context to the "human truth."
"We owe the truth, not just the facts," she said recently in a phone interview from her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "I'm celebrating my 84th year on this planet. I've seen many things, I've learned many things. I've certainly been exposed to many things and I've learned something: I owe it to you, to tell you."
Angelou said she is sharing black history in "a way that you get it and don't even know you got it," with songs, poems, jokes and short stories woven throughout interviews with five guests, including Keys, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, diplomat Kofi Annan and actress and playwright Regina Taylor.
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