Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928.
She spent her childhood in California, Arkansas, and St. Louis, and lived with her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, for most of her childhood years. At age 8, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend in St.Louis; this led to years of muteness for Maya, which she finally overcame through help from a caring neighbor, and a great love for literature.
At age 16, Maya became the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco; in later years, she became the first black woman screenwriter and director in Hollywood. In the 60's, she was a friend to both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X; she served in the SCLC with Dr. King, and worked for years for the civil rights movement. Also in the 1960's, she worked and travelled in Africa, as a journalist and teacher, and helping with several African independence movements. In 1970, she published her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, to great acclaim, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry the following year.
Angelou has had a long and distinguished career, and is a poet, writer, civil-rights activist, and historian, among other things. She was also an accomplished actress, dancer, and singer, having performed in a touring production of Porgy and Bess , Jean Genet's play, The Blacks, and the acclaimed television series, Roots. Angelou is probably best known for her autobiographical works, which include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes, and fill a total of five best-selling volumes.
In 1993, Angelou read her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the inauguration of President Clinton; this was one of the high points of her career, and again brought her into the public spotlight. She was a professor of American History at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, and made regular lecture and speaking tours.
Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th, 2014.
Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri and she was raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. With over 50 honorary doctorate degrees, Dr. Maya Angelou became a celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist.
She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and she was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Dr. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17.
Maya Angelou became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, nightclub dancer and performer, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Dr. Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000. President Barack Obama presented her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor in 2010.
Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014.