Maya Angelou or originally known as Marguerite Annie Johnson was dancer, singer, social rights activist and most importantly a world-famous African American poet who had a very unique style of writing and explored the theme of economic, racial and sexual oppression. (“Maya Angelou | Biography, Books, Poems, & Facts”)
Maya was born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri and had an extremely difficult childhood and moved in with her fathers mom in Stamps, Arkansaw with her older brother, Bailey. Maya discovered she has a talent for writing and would always create little poems and stories as a child. While on a trip visiting her mother she was brutally raped by her mothers boyfriend at 8 years old. Soon after, her rapist was murdered as vengance by her uncle. She was so traumatized, she stopped speaking completely, not a word for 5 whole years until she was 13. (“Maya Angelou – Quotes, Poems & Books – Biography”)
She then went out to seek education and during World War ll she moved to San Francisco, California. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School while also becoming the first black female street car conductor at only 16 years old and at 17 years old she gave birth to her son Guy Johnson. (Spring and Brandman) Later in the mid- 1950s, her career really began to take off. She landed roles performing and working Broadway shows, releasing her first album named “Calypso”, earning 3 grammys, a Tony Award nomination for her role in “Look Away” and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the miniseries “Roots.” (Angelou and Provan) Maya also loved to travel and lived in Egypt and Ghana for a couple of years. In Egypt she worked as an editor for “Arab Observer” and in Ghana she took a job at “African Review.”
In 1964, before returning to the U.S she met Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr and intended to help them with their upcoming projects, but sadly they both were assassinated leaving her completely devastated. After their passing she found comfort in writing again and began to work on her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” talking about her hard childhood in Arkansaw, followed by 6 more award winning autobiographies and from there her name became more known all over the world. (“Maya Angelou is born – HISTORY”) She won multiple awards and became friends with many influential people including James Baldwin, Michelle and Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and more.
Sadly, her life came to an end a year after receiving the literarian award at age 86 on May 28th, 2014 due to her frail body and poor health conditions. (Brown) Maya was born an amazing gift and her ability to touch the hearts of her readers is incredible. She inspired all kinds of people, especially the female black writers all over the world to shine and be heard everywhere and for that we will remember her and her legacy.
Angelou, Maya, and Alexander Provan. “Maya Angelou.” Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/maya-angelou. Accessed 22 April 2022.
Brown, Emma. “Maya Angelou, writer and poet, dies at age 86.” The Washington Post, 28 May 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/maya-angelou-writer-and-poet-dies-at-age-86/2014/05/28/2948ef5e-c5da-11df-94e1-c5afa35a9e59_story.html. Accessed 25 April 2022.
Lefrak, Mikaela. “8 Things You Might Not Have Known About Maya Angelou.” Boston.com, 28 May 2014, https://www.boston.com/news/national-news/2014/05/28/8-things-you-might-not-have-known-about-maya-angelou/. Accessed 25 April 2022.
“Maya Angelou | Biography, Books, Poems, & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 31 March 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Maya-Angelou. Accessed 20 April 2022.
“Maya Angelou is born – HISTORY.” History.com, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/maya-angelou-is-born. Accessed 22 April 2022.
“Maya Angelou – Quotes, Poems & Books – Biography.” Biography (Bio.), 28 February 2018, https://www.biography.com/writer/maya-angelou. Accessed 21 April 2022.
Rogers, Kevin. “Maya Angelou Gives Birth to Guy Johnson.” World History Project, 31 December 1969, https://worldhistoryproject.org/1943/maya-angelou-gives-birth-to-guy-johnson. Accessed 27 April 2022.
Spring, Kelly A., and Mariana Brandman. “Biography: Maya Angelou.” National Women’s History Museum, 7 December 2021, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/maya-angelou. Accessed 21 April 2022
Image credit – https://liberalarts.org.uk/most-people-dont-grow-up-maya-angelou/