Who was Maya Angelou?
Maya Angelou was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet, and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir, I know why the caged bird sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller written by an African-American woman. Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the category of Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction), in 2005 and 2009.
Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou had a difficult childhood. Her parents separated when she was very young, and she and her older brother, Bailey, were sent to live with her father’s mother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas.
As an African American, Angelou experienced firsthand racial prejudice and discrimination in Arkansas. She also suffered at the hands of a family associate around the age of 7: during a visit to her mother, she Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. As revenge for her sexual assault, Angelou’s uncles killed her boyfriend.
So traumatized by the experience, Angelou stopped talking. She returned to Arkansas and spent years virtually mute.
During WWII, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School.
Also during this time, Angelou became the first black cable car conductor, a job she held only briefly, in San Francisco.
Acting and singing career
In the mid-1950s, Angelou’s career as a performer began to take off. She landed a part in a traveling production of Porgy and Besslater appearing in the off-Broadway production calypso heat wave (1957) and releasing their first album, miss calypso (1957).
A member of the Harlem Writers Guild and civil rights activist, Angelou organized and starred in the musical revue cabaret for freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also serving as SCLC Northern Coordinator.
Angelou earned a Tony Award nomination for her role in the play. Set aside (1973) and an Emmy Award nomination for his work on the television miniseries Estate (1977), among other honors.
Time in Africa
Angelou spent much of the 1960s abroad, living first in Egypt and then in Ghana, working as a freelance writer and editor. Ella angelou also held a position at the University of Ghana for a while.
In Ghana, he also joined a community of “revolutionary returnees” exploring Pan-Africanism and became close to the human rights activist and black nationalist leader. malcolm x. In 1964, upon returning to the United States, Angelou helped Malcolm X establish the Organization for African American Unity, which was dissolved after his assassination the following year.
“Just Give Me A Cold Drink Before I Die” (1971)
Angelou published several collections of poetry, but the most famous was the 1971 collection. Just give me a drink of cold water before I diewhich was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Other famous collections of Angelou’s poetry include:
- Oh, pray my wings fit me right (1975), which includes Angelou’s poem “Alone”
- And I still get up (1978), featuring the beloved poem “Phenomenal Woman”
- Shaker, why don’t you sing? (1983)
- I would prefer not to be moved (1990), with the poem “Human Family”; Apple used a video of Angelou reading this poem in an ad at the 2016 Olympics.
- Even the stars seem lonely (1997)
‘On the pulse of the morning’ (1993)
One of her most famous works, Angelou wrote this poem especially for the president and recited it in Bill Clinton‘s inaugural ceremony in January 1993. The occasion marked the first inaugural recitation since 1961 when Roberto Frost delivered his poem “The Gift Outright” in John F. Kennedyinauguration of .
Angelou won a Grammy Award (Best Spoken Word Album) for the audio version of the poem.
Other known poems by Angelou include:
- “His Day Is Done” (1962), a tribute poem Angelou wrote for Nelson Mandela while on his secret trip from Africa to London.
- “Amazing Peace” (2005), written by Angelou for the White House tree lighting ceremony
‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ (1969)
Friend and fellow writer james baldwin he urged Angelou to write about her life experiences. The resulting work was the highly successful 1969 memoir of his childhood and her youth, I know why the caged bird sings.
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The moving story made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African-American woman. The book, which made Angelou an international star, is still regarded as her most popular autobiographical work.
In 1995, Angelou was praised for staying in The New York Times‘ paperback nonfiction bestseller list for two years, the longest-running record in the chart’s history.
‘Assemble in My Name’ (1974)
Angelou’s follow-up to a caged birdthese memoirs cover her life as an unemployed teenage mother in California, when she turned to narcotics and prostitution.
‘Singing, Swinging and Partying Like Christmas’ (1976)
Angelou wrote this autobiography about her early career as a singer and actress.
‘The Heart of a Woman’ (1981)
Angelou wrote this memoir about leaving California with her son for New York, where she was involved in the civil rights movement.
‘All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes’ (1986)
A lyrical exploration of what it means to be African American in Africa, this autobiographical book covers the years Angelou spent living in Ghana.
“I Wouldn’t Take Anything For My Trip Right Now” (1994)
This collection of inspiring essays presents Angelou’s insights on spirituality and the good life.
‘A song thrown into the sky’ (2002)
Another autobiographical work, A song thrown to heaven explores Angelou’s return to the US from Africa and her subsequent struggle to deal with the devastating murders of two human rights leaders she worked with, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.. The book ends when, encouraged by her friend Baldwin of hers, Angelou began working on I know why the caged bird sings.
‘Letter to my daughter’ (2008)
Dedicated to the daughter Angelou never had, this book of essays presents Angelou’s advice for young women on how to live a meaningful life.
‘Mom, me and mom’ (2013)
In this memoir, Angelou talks about her complicated relationship with a mother who abandoned her during childhood.
Interested in health, Angelou’s published cookbooks include Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Recipe Memories (2005) and Good food, all day (2010).
Screenwriter and director
after posting caged birdAngelou broke new ground artistically, educationally, and socially with her drama georgia in 1972, making her the first African-American woman to produce her screenplay.
In 1998, looking for new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut with down in the deltastarring Alfred Woodard.
achievements and awards
Angelou’s career has received numerous accolades, including a 1998 Audience Choice Award from the Chicago International Film Festival and a nod from the Acapulco Black Film Festival in 1999 for down in the delta.
She also won two NAACP Image Awards in the category of Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction), for her 2005 cookbook and 2008 cookbook. letter to my daughter.
Martin Luther King Jr., a close friend of Angelou’s, was assassinated on her birthday (April 4) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years, sending flowers to King’s widow. coretta scott kingfor over 30 years, until Coretta’s death in 2006.
Angelou was also good friends with the television personality. Oprah Winfreywho organized several birthday celebrations for the award-winning author, including a week-long cruise for her 70th birthday in 1998.
In 1944, the 16-year-old Angelou gave birth to a son, Guy (a short-lived high school relationship led to the pregnancy). After giving birth, she worked various jobs to support herself and her child. Poet, Angelou’s son is now called Guy Johnson.
In 1952, Angelou married Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor from whom she took her professional name, a mixture of her childhood nickname, “Maya”, and a shortened version of her last name. The couple later divorced.
Notoriously secretive about her marriages, Angelou was probably married at least three times, including in 1973 to a carpenter, Paul du Feu.
After experiencing health problems for several years, Angelou died on May 28, 2014 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. News of her passing spread quickly and many people took to social media to mourn and remember Angelou. Singer Maria J. Blige and political Cory Booker they were among those who tweeted their favorite quotes from her in tribute.
President Barack Obama he also issued a statement about Angelou, calling her “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.” Angelou “had the ability to remind us that we are all children of God, that we all have something to offer,” she wrote.
In May 2021, it was Announced that Angelou will be one of the first women to be commemorated with a new series of US Mint quarters.