- NAME: Maya Angelou
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Author, Poet
- BIRTH DATE: April 04, 1928 (Age: 85)
- Did You Know?: Maya Angelou became the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California, in the 1940s.
- Did You Know?: Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.
- Did You Know?: Maya Angelou recited one of her poems at President Bill Clinton's 1993 inaugural ceremony—marking the first inaugural recitation since 1961.
- Did You Know?: Maya Angelou was lauded in 1995 for her record-setting, two-year run on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-seller list.
- Did You Know?: Maya Angelou is the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced, for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia.
- Did You Know?: MLK Jr. was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou's birthday (April 5) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward.
- Did You Know?: In 1952, Maya Angelou married a Greek sailor named Anastasios Angelopulos, from whom she took her professional name.
- EDUCATION: George Washington High School, California Labor School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Louis, Missouri
- AKA: Marguerite Johnson
- Full Name: Marguerite Annie Johnson
- AKA: Marguerite Ann Johnson
- Nickname: Maya
- ZODIAC SIGN: Aries
Best Known For
Maya Angelou is a poet and award-winning memoirist known for the acclaimed poetry collection I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Listen to the poem Maya Angelou read at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration on January 20, 1993.
A short biography of author and poet Maya Angelou who wrote the bestselling autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
Author Alice Walker began writing early in life. When an injury to her left eye afforded her the chance to go to College, Walker began to work towards her goal of becoming a professional writer.
While at Spelman College, Alice Walker turned down a scholarship to study abroad in Paris in order to go to Mississippi to pursue civil rights equality.
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Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. In 1971,
"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
"Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently."
"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill/ of things unknown but longed for still/ and his tune is heard on the distant hill/ for the caged birds sings of freedom."
["I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"]
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
"We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated."
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"
"To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents."
"We are only as blind as we want to be."
"The intensity with which young people live demands that they 'black out' as often as possible."
"Home is a refuge, not only from my worries, my terrible concerns. I like beautiful things around me. I like to be beautiful because it delights my eyes and my soul is lifted up."
"You may not control the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."
"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good."
"If you get, give. If you learn, teach."
"In the flush of love's light, we dare to be brave, and suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet, it is only love which sets us free."
"I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory."
Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die. She later wrote the poem "On the Pulse of Morning"—one of her most famous works—which she recited at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Angelou has received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009.
Multi-talented barely seems to cover the depth and breadth of Maya Angelou's accomplishments. She is an author, actress, screenwriter, dancer and poet. Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, Angelou had a difficult childhood. Her parents split up when she was very young, and she and her older brother, Bailey, were sent to live with their father's mother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas.
As an African American, Angelou experienced firsthand racial prejudices and discrimination in Arkansas. She also suffered at the hands of a family associate around the age of 7: During a visit with her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend. Then, as vengeance for the sexual assault, Angelou's uncles killed the boyfriend. So traumatized by the experience, Angelou stopped talking. She returned to Arkansas and spent years as a virtual mute.
During World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California, where she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. Also during this time, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor—a job she held only briefly, in San Francisco.
In 1944, a 16-year-old Angelou gave birth to a son, Guy (a short-lived high school relationship had led to the pregnancy), thereafter working a number of jobs to support herself and her child. In 1952, the future literary icon wed Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor from whom she took her professional name—a blend of her childhood nickname, "Maya," and a shortened version of his surname.
In the mid-1950s, Angelou's career as a performer began to take off. She landed a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess, later appearing in the off-Broadway production Calypso Heat Wave (1957) and releasing her first album, Miss Calypso (1957). A member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist, Angelou organized and starred in the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also serving as the SCLC's northern coordinator.
In 1961, Angelou appeared in an off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks with James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson. While the play earned strong reviews, Angelou moved on to other pursuits, spending much of the 1960s abroad; she first lived in Egypt and then in Ghana, working as an editor and a freelance writer.
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