Introducing the Maya Angelou Limited Edition Watch

BY Taylor Rebhan

As a woman of unshakable faith, Dr. Maya Angelou’s influence as a leader reached far beyond the confines of any single cultural sphere. This poet, producer, singer, actress and civil rights activist overcame a multitude of hardships and beat impossible odds to become one of the most celebrated public figures of our time. Inspired by her art, wisdom, worldwide contributions to human rights, and insatiable love of life, we couldn’t be more honored to announce Maya Angelou as the fourth installment in our Great Americans Series.  

The Great Americans Series is a collection of limited edition watches that honor iconic American innovators who helped shape our culture and made a lasting mark in American history. 

We partnered with Dr. Maya Angelou’s See Forever Foundation to create 500 Maya Angelou Limited Edition Watches. This timepiece reinterprets classic Shinola details from our newest watch design, The Cass, while echoing the beauty and grace the acclaimed author and activist added to the world.

We had the privilege of speaking with Maya Angelou’s grandson, Colin Johnson, who is the co-founder and managing partner of the Maya Angelou Foundation.

“The foundation partners with great companies and brands like Shinola that will raise the visibility of my grandmother’s message in many different ways, so people understand her impact on American and global history, and strengthen her message to further try and bring the world together,” he says.


Dr. Maya Angelou with her grandson, Colin Johnson.

Colin spoke with us about the impact his grandma had on the world by sharing some of his favorite memories of her — “I called her grandma and she called me her grand.”

“My grandma brought so many people to join our family and wove people together by bringing together all walks of life,” Colin says. “She always talked about the rich tapestry of life and how we all create our own individual, beautiful thread that’s meant to be woven together; and once that fabric is woven together, it’s so much stronger than the individual strand — that’s really how she lived her life.”


This brilliant square-faced timepiece features a stainless steel case and Mother of Pearl dial with rose gold numbers, a bourbon leather strap, and a Signature Shinola case back in PVD rose gold etched with Dr. Maya Angelou’s signature.

For the last 27 years of Maya’s life, she hosted every Thanksgiving dinner in her Winstom-Salem, North Carolina home. “‘Come as you are’, she’d say.” 

The guest list got bigger year after year. “People from around the world, Africa, Europe, various different places, would fly in for five days of Thanksgiving events — she was the ultimate ‘bringer-together’.” 

Through his grandma, the number of aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters Colin has is endless, he laughs. “Her acceptance of people was unmatched.” 


The watch is sold as part of a gift set, which includes a leather-bound journal containing excerpts from Dr. Angelou’s poetry.

Colin talked about how his grandmother’s high expectations effected most of his major life decisions. “She expected the total package — she believed in excellence, in working hard, being of service, and putting it all out there,” he says. 

Maya’s unwavering support made her the ultimate grandma and even better great-grandmother, Colin says. Colin’s children are now 18 and 15 years old, and they too share memories with their beloved great-grandmother.

“She used to tell me, ‘I am a hand in the small of your back, I may let you stumble, but I’ll never let you fall,’” he says. 


The pale pink gift box (pictured above) holds the custom wooden watch box and journal.

Maya Angelou won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration — to name just a few of her accomplishments.

To Colin, everyone Maya encountered was encouraged to be the best version of themselves they could be. 

Today, his life’s mission is to continue her legacy.  “My grandma could have sat back and wrote some books and maybe had a couple of opinions, but she decided to play a role in American lives and the folks at Shinola have decided to play a role by investing in an American city like Detroit. Creating jobs, training the future, and creating opportunity that wasn’t there before — that is something that we want to be a part of.”


A commemorative, limited edition fountain pen, is sold separately. This design is an homage to Maya Angelou’s seminal autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation helps disenfranchised people and lifts up those that might not have an opportunity otherwise, he explains.

“We give out four scholarships per year and support our non-profit partners like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Maya Angelou Charter School in Washington, D.C., and our women’s health center in North Carolina — It’s about making an impact and really giving visibility and life to other people’s great work as well,” he says. 

Maya Angelou pushed everyone to become a global citizen, Colin says. “People know what they know and it’s hard to come up with words that haven’t already been said about her, but I truly believe our world would not be the same without her — we must always remember to look up and see the light.”

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The Signature Shinola case back in rose gold is etched with Dr. Maya Angelou’s signature.

Shop the Maya Angelou Limited Edition Watch

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