Marguerite Ann Johnson, known as Maya Angelou, was a poet, dancer, singer, and scholar. She is known for her unique autobiographical writing style. She was born on April 4, 1928, in St.Louis, Missouri. Most of her childhood was spent living with her grandmother, Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas because her parent’s marriage was in tumult. A f, she returned to her mother’s care at the age of 7. During this time, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend leading to his incarceration. Following his release, he was killed making Angelou go mute for 6 years. Entering her teenage years, Maya returned to Arkansas to live with her grandmother. Later, her interest in poetry and memorization of works by Shakespeare and Poe began to show.
Before the commencement of World War II, she moved back in with her mother in Oakland, California, where she attended George Washington High School. During her time there, she participated in dance and drama classes. When the war finally broke out, Angelou applied for many jobs at the age of 15 but she was denied. Eventually, she applied for the position of streetcar conductor and she was dismissed because of her race. Because Maya didn’t take no for an answer, the company gave her the position, making her the first African American woman to work as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California.
On September 8, 1945, Angelou gave birth to her son, Guy Johnson. As she joined motherhood, she gradually revealed her talents in singing and dancing. In the 1950s, she performed in the US, Europe, and northern Africa. Additionally, she sold albums of her recordings.
CAREER and ACTIVISM
As she continued with her career, she became active in the Civil Rights Movement and served as the northern coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a famous African American advocacy organization that was established in 1957. In 1969,Maya Angelou published I Know Why Caged Bird Sings. It was an autobiography and it covered her experiences with racism and sexism.
Because of Angelou’s notable talent, she won a grammy for the Best Spoken Word category with “On the Pulse of the Morning.” It was originally written and read at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. 2 years later, she won another grammy for her spoken word albums of poetry.
As she proceeded with her career, she became the first African American woman to have her screenplay turned into a film with the production of Georgia, Georgia. Furthermore, she was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Wake Forest University Writers Hall of Fame.
DEATH and LEGACY
On May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou died. Following her demise, many memorials were held in honor of her works. The US Postal Service issued a stamp that was to Angelou’s liking.
The beginning of Angelou’s life story may cause some people to feel sorry for her but what amazes everyone is how she overcame those obstacles. She did not continue to let her past trauma cripple her, but she crippled her past trauma. Her work has shown that a woman can do anything she wants if she puts her mind to it and knocks down the injustices. Maya Angelou did not just inspire young people to go further but they left a very memorable mark on this world that we will never forget.
In 2022, Maya Angelou was the first of several women to be honored by having her image featured on quarters produced by the United States Mint. Read more about Maya Angelou and this wonderful series paying homage to women here!