From Maya Angelou on the Difference Between Acquaintances and Friends

In 2011, the late poet and author explained the difference between friendship and acquaintanceship

Photo: Moneta Sleet, Jr./ Ebony Collection/AP

American icon Maya Angelou has passed away at 86. The following is an interview between the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and ESSENCE former editor-in-chief Marcia Ann Gillespie in 2011.

For nearly 40 years Dr. Maya Angelou has been my friend, mentor, big sister and other mother. Early this year President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. And she is a national treasure. Here she reminds us that in the Facebook age, the distinction between acquaintance and friend needs to be made clear, and she tells why we should always cherish our friendships with our women friends.

Marcia Ann Gillespie: There are friends and then there are acquaintances. How do you know when someone is really a friend?
Maya Angelou: There’s a marked difference between acquaintances and friends. Most people really don’t become friends. They become deep and serious acquaintances. But in a friendship you get to know the spirit of another person; and your values coincide. Friends may disagree, but not about serious matters. A friend will stand for you when you are no longer able. A woman can say to herself, “If I die, I know that my friend, my sister friend will be here to hold up the banner.” Now that’s very profound.

Read the rest of the interview at


From 10 Questions with Maya Angelou

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