Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Angelou reciting her poem"On the Pulse of Morning"

Maya Angelou

Important FactsAn inspirational person to this day, Maya Angelou was an influential writer, actress, dancer, and singer. Although she was well known for her series of seven biographies, she also wrote multiple books of poetry, and three books consisting her essays. During her lifetime she recieved numerous awards, and over 50 honorary degrees. Her first biography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a story of her life through age 17, was widely popular and brought her global recognition.

Early Life Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, to her father Bailey Johnson and mother Vivian Johnson, with the original name of Marguerite Annie Johnson. Her one sibling and older brother Bailey Jr., gave her the nickname Maya which later replaced her birth name. Maya's parents divorced when she was very young, and unfortunaltly at the age of 8, Maya was raped by her mothers boyfriend. After word got around of this terrible event, the boyfriend was killed a few days later. For a long time after the man's death, Maya did not speak because she was afraid her words were the cause of death. During this difficult period, a teacher named Ms. Bertha Flowers helped Maya speak again, and discover many talented writers such as Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. At age 14, while living with her mother in Oakland, California, Maya attended George Washington high school. Soon after, she had the oppurtunity to attend California Labor School on a schoolorship, and participated in dance and drama there. After graduating highschool, Maya gave birth to her son Guy Johnson at the age of 17. To support her son and herself, Maya got a job as a street car conductor, and she became the first black female to do this.

Adulthood/Career/Later LifeIn 1951, Maya married an ex- white sailor by the name of Tosh Angelos, but they seperated a few years later. After this, Maya continued her study of dancing, singing, and acting. During her studies, Maya got the chance to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak, and was so influenced by his words that she got a job to be nothern coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a part of Dr. King's movement. She was very active in the civil rights movement, and contributed greatly to its progress. In 1962, Maya headed to Ghana, West Africa with her son, and was feature editor for the African Review, as well as a freelance writer. After returning to the United States, Maya was encouraged by many to write and autobiography. At first she decides against the idea, but she later changes her mind and writes her first biography, I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings. This biography reflected on her life from childhood to the birth of her son, and was written in such a special way that it was nominated for the National Book Award. Maya married again to Paul de Feu in 1973, but like her last marraige they divorced. Maya accepted the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University , and also held many lectures, which she continued well into her 80s. As for the rest of her writing career, it took her 15 years to write the last volume of her biography A Song Flung Up to Heaven. Her collection of 38 peoms called Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, recieved both a Grammy Award and nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. One of her other well known poems, On the Pulse of Morning, was read by Maya at President Clinton's 1993 inaguration. Throughout her lifetime Maya was awarded with the National Medal of Arts, Lincoln Medal, and the Predidential Medal of Freedom most likely for her exceptional talent. Sadly, on the morning of May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou died. Her memorial service was held at Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University on June, 7. Maya's intelligence and wiseness will last for years to come.

By: Audrie Bayham


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