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Maya Angelou: the Latest Partisan Point of Contention

Grothman referred to some harshly worded articles about Angelou. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Grothman referred to some harshly worded articles about Angelou. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rarely do the renaming of U.S. post offices receive backlash on the House floor, but the one for the late poet and civil rights leader Maya Angelou did on Tuesday.  

Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., urged members to think before voting on North Carolina Democratic Rep. Alma Adams’ bill to designate the facility of the U.S. States Postal Service at 200 Town Run Lane in Winston Salem, North Carolina, as the “Maya Angelou Memorial Post Office.”  

“It’s always a big decision when you name a local post office after someone and I just ask the chair, on this issue, to I think people should investigate Maya Angelou a little bit,” Grothman said on the floor before the measure ultimately was approved with bipartisan support. “And I suggest, perhaps, if you want to investigate a little bit further that perhaps you Google Maya Angelou and look at other articles in places like the [The American Thinker], the American Spectator.”

Angelou won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, and was the subject of a postage stamp after her death. She recited poetry at the inaugurations of the past two Democratic presidents: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Former President George W. Bush said in a statement upon her death in 2014 that her words “enriched the culture of our country.”

But an American Spectator article on the day Angelou died said “she was a hardcore lefty” who also supported the Second Amendment.

Two days later, on May 30, 2014, the Spectator wrote: “at her most irresponsible, she embraced Fidel Castro, Malcolm X, and Bill Clinton — a mistake for a lady of any age.”

The American Thinker, on same day, cited the Spectator articles and called Angelou “the late poet/madam/actress/communist/all around phony.”

Ultimately, the measured passed the House, 371-9. The nine who voted against the bill, all Republicans, were Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama; Ken Buck of Colorado; Michael C. Burgess of Texas, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Andy Harris of Maryland, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Steven M. Palazzo of Missisippi, and Grothman. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted present.  

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., responded to the vote and called the nine members who voted against it disrespectful.  

“Naming post offices is one of the most benign and bipartisan duties we perform in the House of Representatives, and there is rarely any opposition,” he said. “That’s why I was shocked today as nine Republicans voted against naming a post office after Maya Angelou, indisputably one of our country’s greatest poets, authors and civil rights activists. The fact that these nine Members would cast a no vote shows a blatant disrespect and only adds to the damaging actions they’ve taken this year to reverse progress from long and hard fought civil rights battles.”  

Katherine Scott contributed to this report.
Contact Gangitano at and follow her on Twitter at @AlexGangitano



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