“You may encounter many defeats. But you must never be defeated.” -Maya Angelou
Born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Anne Johnson, Maya Angelou’s brother couldn’t pronounce her name and began calling her Mya, short for My Sister. She had a rather intense childhood, even horrifying at times. When she was three years old, her parents divorced and the children went to live in the rural, segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas, with their grandmother.
A few years later, the children moved back to St. Louis where Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was eight years old. For years, she refused to speak at all and only overcame her muteness due to the kindness and patience of a neighbor and by reading literature.
At age 15, Maya Angelou became a civil rights activist. Notably, she was the first black person hired to be a streetcar conductor in San Francisco.
Maya Angelou moved to New York City and began working in film, theater, dancing, singing, and writing. After marrying a South African freedom fighter, she moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she edited an English newspaper.
Maya Angelou worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to promote equality. One of her biggest honors was writing and delivering her original poem “On the Pulse of Morning” for President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. She was only the second poet ever to be asked to do so.
In 1969, Maya wrote an autobiographical depiction of her childhood, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. To this day, it is known as her most popular and beloved work.
Her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia, was the first original screenplay by a black woman to be produced and filmed. Her poetry collection, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Later, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance in Roots. By 1995, she became the first black author to remain on...
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