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Maya Angelou-a known poet, award winning author, singer,memoirist and Civil Rights Activist.

Her full name is Marguerite  Annie Johnson  Angelou and she was born on 4th April 1928.She was an American author, actress, screenwriter, singer, dancer, poet and Civil Rights Activist. She published seven  autobiographies, three essay books, several poetry books, plays. She acted in several movies and television shows which spanned over 50 years. She  was conferred with 50 honorary degrees and several awards. Her autobiographies dealt with her early childhood and early adult life. Her most memorable work was ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’

Her life was full of trials and tribulations.


She was born in St.Louis ,Missouri on 4th April 1928 .Her father was a doorman and mother a nurse but they separated early and Maya had to go through hell. At the tender age of three she was sent alone on a train, to her paternal grandmother in Arkansas. Her granny had her own general store and was financially well off. She was happy there but not for long as again her father sent her off to live with her mother in St.Louis.

At a vulnerable age of eight she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told the family and the man was murdered. She got guilt pangs as she thought her voice had killed him and she became mute for five years. But these five years brought about changes in her behaviour, she developed an amazing memory ,developed a love for books and literature and became more observant.

After the murder at the age of eight she was sent back to her granny. There a family friend and teacher Mrs. Bertha Flowers helped her get her voice back. She introduced her to authors like Charles Dickens, Poe etc and black female artists like Anne Spencer, Jessie Faucet.

At 14 she was sent back to her mother in Oakland, California where she attended California Labor School.Before her graduation she became the  First Female Black Conductor, in San Francisco. She became a mother at the age of 17.


In 1951 she married an aspiring Greek musician Tosh Angelos . She started taking modern dance classes and met dancers and choreographers. She formed a dance team and performed at fraternal black organizations but wasn’t successful. Her marriage ended in 1954. After which she started dancing in night clubs and even started singing in clubs. Now she changed her name from Marguerite to Maya Angelou for professional reasons.She mastered the Calypso dance and performed with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She being an avid learner learnt languages of different places where she performed. She performed all  over Europe but on the insistence of the novelist John Olliver  Killens she shifted base to New York to concentrate on her writing. She came in touch with several African-American authors in New York.

She met Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King in 1960 and to help people she organized ‘The Legendary’ cabaret and became a fundraiser for  Civil Rights .She started her anti-apartheid activism during 1960.


In 1961 she performed a play The Blacks and after this again she moved back to Cairo with her son. She became a associate editor with a weekly news-paper The Arab Observer .Again in 1962 she moved to Ghanaso that her son could get college education. He met with an accident so she stayed with him till 1965 in Ghana till he had recovered. She became an administrator at the University of Ghana. She became a feature editor for the African Review , freelance writer for Ghanaian Times, broadcaster at  Radio Ghana and worked for Ghana’s National Theatre.

In 1965 she returned to U.S. and helped Malcolm X to build a new civil rights organization but he was assassinated, so she was at a loss and moved to Hawaii where her brother lived. She focussed on her writing.

In 1968 on Martin Luther King Jrs  insistenceshe organized a march but unfortunately on her 40th birthday he was assassinated. She was devastated and in 1969 she wrote her first autobiography which brought her international acclaim and fame.


She wrote her first screenplay Georgia Georgia which was released in 1972. She remarried Welsh Carpenter. She worked as a composer and composed movie scores. She accomplished a lot by writing articles, short stories, poetry, autobiographies, plays, TV scripts, documentaries and  was a visiting professor at several  colleges and universities. She became a close friend of TV anchor Oprah Winfrey.

Again in 1981 she shifted base to Southern America. She taught various subjects in colleges like Philosophy, Ethics, Science, Writing etc.

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In 1993 she recited her poem ‘ On The Pulse Of The Morning.’ At the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, the first poet after Robert Frost to make an inaugural recitation. Her poem won a Grammy Award.

She directed a feature film in 1996.And in 2002 she completed her sixth autobiography ‘A songFlung Up To Heaven’.

In 2008 she campaigned for senator Hillary Clinton. But when Barack Obama came to power she became his supporter.

In 2010 she donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg  Centre For Research In  Black Culture in Harlem.

In 2011 she served as a consultant for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

In 2013 she published her last and the seventh autobiography at the ripe age of 85. It was called as’Mom & Me & Mom’ focuses on her relationship with her mother.

On May 28th 2014 she passed away.

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life full ofthorns  with a difficult childhood, youth and  adulthood, she could have broken down but she possessed an indomitable spirit which urged her to move on.

She donned several hats and gave importance to each and won a lot of adulation for every type of work she did. She received a lot of honours including two NAACP image awards for outstanding literary work in the non-fiction category. Her poetry collection ‘ Just Give Me A Cool Drink Of Water Fore I Die ‘ was nominated for the Pulitzer prize. Her memoir ‘ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings ‘ was a best-seller by an African-American woman. She was interested in health and published several cookbooks including Hallelujah!

Her death in 2014 caused sadness among many known personalities. Barack Obama issued a statement about her, he said she was ‘a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman,’

Her journey is truly inspirational from leading a nomadic existence due to her parents separation, sexual abuse at a vulnerable age of eight, losing her voice and then picking herself to face life with fortitude. Instead of getting miffed with her fate ,she overcame her problems to be recognized as a poet, writer,cook, singer, actor, TV screenplay writer, Calypso dancer, nightclub dancer, journalist, a civil rights activist and above all a good human-being.

In her own words she said’ Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me.It’s like a swimmer in the {English} channel;you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the shore, and you put your foot on the ground----Aaaahhhh!-‘1999

Maya Angelou quotes - solitary fantasy can change a million realities

Maya Angelou quotes - how amazing you can be