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Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

  • Maya Angelou is an acclaimed American poet and autobiographer. She was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Angelou has had a varied career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood's first female black director, civil rights activist, but is most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. 
  • She is best known for her autobiographical books: All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), The Heart of a Woman (1981), Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976),Gather Together in My Name (1974), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), which was nominated for the National Book Award.
  • As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X. She has also been an educator and is currently the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. 
  • By 1975, wrote Carol E. Neubauer in Southern Women Writers: The New Generation,"Angelou had become recognized not only as a spokesperson for blacks and women, but also for all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States." 
  • Angelou’s most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), deals with her early years in Long Beach, St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas, where she lived with her brother and paternal grandmother. In one of its most evocative (and controversial) moments, Angelou describes how she was first cuddled then raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was just seven years old. 
  • When the man was murdered by her uncles for his crime, Angelou felt responsible, and stopped talking. Angelou remained mute for five years, but developed a love for language. She read black authors likeLangston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, as well as canonical works by William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. 
  • When Angelou was twelve and a half, Mrs. Flowers, an educated black woman, finally got her to speak again. 
  • Mrs. Flowers, as Angelou recalled in her children’s book Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship (1986), emphasized the importance of the spoken word, explained the nature of and importance of 
    education, and instilled in her a love of poetry.
  • She has also written and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including "Afro-Americans in the Arts," a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. Maya Angelou was twice nominated for a Tony award for acting: once for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1973), and again for her performance in Roots (1977).

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