Brow Beat

Maya Angelou Describes Her Stepfather’s Greatest Con, and the Racist Who Fell for It

When Maya Angelou died in May, it was hard to digest the full scope of her influence. It still is: in poetry and politics, Angelou displayed a profound, life-affirming wisdom that inspired millions of people. The latest installment of Blank on Blank captures a tiny bit of that wisdom—it’s a conversation between Studs Terkel and Angelou about the greatest long con her stepfather, Daddy Clidell, ever pulled.

The central strategy of that con was to “use the white man’s bigotry against him.” I won’t spoil it with excess detail, but suffice to say the scam includes one racist Southerner, three persuasive actors, a tract of land, and $50,000 in cash. Angelou, as usual, is unfairly eloquent, and Patrick Smith’s animation lends a playful energy to her story.

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