- 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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Angelou also held a position at the University of Ghana for a time.
After returning to the United States, Angelou was urged by friend and fellow writer James Baldwin to write about her life experiences. Her efforts resulted in the enormously successful 1969 memoir about her childhood and young adult years, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,
which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. The poignant work also made Angelou an international star.
Since publishing Caged Bird, Angelou has continued to break new ground—not just artistically, but educationally and socially. She wrote the drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972—becoming the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced—and went on to earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in the play Look Away (1973) and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television miniseries Roots (1977), among other honors.
Angelou has written several autobiographies throughout her career, including All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) and A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), but 1969's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings continues to be regarded as her most popular autobiographical work. She has also published several collections of poetry, including Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die (1971), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
One of Angelou's most famous works is the poem "On the Pulse of Morning," which she wrote especially for and recited at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony in January 1993—marking the first inaugural recitation since 1961, when Robert Frost delivered his poem "The Gift Outright" at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Angelou went on to win a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem.
In 1995, Angelou was lauded for remaining on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-seller list for two years—the longest-running record in the chart's history.
Seeking new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut in 1998 with Down in the Delta, starring Alfre Woodard. She has also written a number of inspirational works, from the essay collection Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1994) to her advice for young women in Letter to My Daughter (2008). Interested in health, Angelou has even published cookbooks, including Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories With Recipes (2005) and Great Food, All Day Long (2010).
Angelou's career has seen numerous accolades, including the Chicago International Film Festival's 1998 Audience Choice Award and a nod from the Acapulco Black Film Festival in 1999 for Down in the Delta; and two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, for her 2005 cookbook and 2008's Letter to My Daughter.
Martin Luther King Jr., a close friend of Angelou's, was assassinated on her birthday (April 5) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King's widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta's death in 2006.
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