Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist.
Maya Angelo, born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an African-American author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. Additionally, she was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than 50 years. She was best known for, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)”, tells of her life up to the age of seventeen and brought her international recognition and acclaim. Angelou became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess. Moreover, Angelou, received dozens of awards and over fifty honorary degrees.
From 1982, she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for many people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Attempts have been made to ban her books from some U.S. libraries, but her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou’s major works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.
Dr. Angelou experienced the brutality of racial discrimination, but she also absorbed the unshakable faith and values of traditional AfricanAmerican family, community, and culture. As a teenager, Dr. Angelou’s love for the arts won her a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook, however her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry would soon take center stage. She is the epitome of how you can push through what seems to be a “no win” situation to change the lives of others around you. DT
The phenomenal Dr. Maya Angelou