Maya Angelou was an author, poet, and civil rights activist born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928 and died in her home in North Carolina in 2014. She is most well-known for her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was a memoir published in 1969 that received worldwide recognition for its literary acclaim and discussion of racism and trauma.
Angelou moved to Arkansas as a child where she survived a lot of racial and domestic trauma. Her and her brother moved in with their paternal grandmother. During a visit with her mother, Angelou’s mother’s boyfriend raped her… at just seven years old. Her uncles sought vengeance by murdering him shortly after the incident. Maya Angelou stopped talking for a long time after the experience, and was assumed as a mute.
Through her experience, she pushed on, and received a scholarship to study dance and acting through the California School of Labor in San Francisco. After World War II, in the 1950’s, Maya Angelou’s career began to take off as a performer. She landed a major role in the touring performance of Porgy and Bess, and in 1957 she performed in off-broadway Calypso Heat Wave.
After her first wave of success, she decided to travel abroad, landing in Africa for the majority of the 1960s, where she worked as a freelance writer, editor and professor at the University of Ghana. During this time, she connected with civil rights activist, Malcom X and helped him to establish the Organization of African-American Unity.
Once the 70’s hit, Angelou continued to rack up her credentials in the performing and writing world, which continued until her death in 2014. Maya Angelou left a grand legacy behind; once which will continue to inspire for years to come.
Maya Angelou’s Black Moments:
- The first black female cable car conductor
- Wrote 36 books including 7 Autobiographies and 2 cook books
- 3 Grammy Award for best Spoken Word Album
- Awarded over 50 honorary Degrees
- Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee
- Published two cook books
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