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Maya Angelou is a poet and prize-winning memoirist. She is the author of the critically acclaimed 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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Writer and African-American activist Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Maya Angelou's five autobiographical novels were met with critical and popular success. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993, Angelou wrote a poem for Clinton's inauguration. In 2008, she earned a NAACP Award.
"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 have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
"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!"
Multitalented 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 seven. During a visit with her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend. Her uncles killed the boyfriend for the sexual assault. 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. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the Labor School. Angelou worked for a time as the first female African American cable car conductor. In 1944, the 16-year-old future literary icon gave birth to her son Guy. Angelou worked a number of jobs to support herself and her son.
In the mid-1950s, Angelou's career as a performer started to take off. She landed a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess. Angelou later appeared off-Broadway in Calypso Heat Wave and released her first album Miss Calypso. A member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist, she organized and starred in the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Angelou served 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, she moved on to other pursuits. Angelou spent much of the 1960s living abroad. She first lived in Egypt and then in Ghana, working as an editor and a freelance writer. Angelou also held a position at the University of Ghana for a time.
Angelou returned to the United States. At the urging of her friend, writer James Baldwin, she began writing about her life experiences. The result of her efforts became the 1970 best-selling memoir about her childhood and young adult years entitled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This poignant work made Angelou an international literary star.
Angelou soon broke new creative ground, becoming the first African American woman to have her screenplay produced. She wrote the 1972 drama Georgia, Georgia. Continuing to act, Angelou earned a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play Look Away and an Emmy Award nomination for her work in the 1977 television miniseries Roots.
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