Marguerite Anne Johnson (Maya Angelou) was born in St. Louis, Missouri on the 4th of April 1928. Even at the time of her birth, when she was seconds, minutes, hours, old, life was working against her. She was born at the mercy of the ignorant, the “traditionalists”, and the near-sighted (racist/sexist people). At a very young age Angelou’s parents split and she and her brother were left in the care of her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Angelou experienced both brutal racism and unshakable faith in community and culture while living with her grandmother and was crushed when she had to leave Stamps and all the memories that the town embodied. At age seven, while visiting her mother in the windy city (a.k.a. Chicago) Angelou was molested by her mother’s boyfriend. She told her brother who, in turn, told others. Her rapist showed up dead a few days after the incident and believing that her words were what killed him, Maya Angelou decided to stop speaking. For 5 long years Maya stayed silent, beginning to reintegrate speech only after she moved to San Francisco where her love for the arts won her a scholarship to the San Francisco Labor School. At 16 years old she became pregnant and gave birth to her son Guy. After graduating high school she decided to pursue the arts and at the ripe age of 19 she married Anatasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor on a cruise ship where she later sang. Her nightclub/cruise ship singer status was elevated after her marriage deteriorated and she was invited to play Carla and the 1954-1955 production of Porgy and Bess. As her career flourished she turned to writing poetry and lyrics. Her works became known and she soon had four autobiographies under her belt. She has spoken at an inauguration, received 3 Grammys and 2 presidential medals, and inspired many to look beyond their stereotype.
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