Maya Angelou facts for kids
Maya Angelou connected with countless people through her powerful poetry
|Born||Marguerite Annie Johnson
April 4, 1928
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||May 28, 2014
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
|Occupation||Writer, poet, civil rights activist|
Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, author, writer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, films, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou was best known for her series of seven autobiographies. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.
Angelou became a poet and writer after a series of jobs as a young adult, including fry cook, dancer and performer, cast member of Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actress, director, producer of plays, movies, and public television programs, and writer. In 1982, she earned the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Angelou was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, Angelou 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 Bill Clinton's inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of black culture. Her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou's most celebrated works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics consider them to be autobiographies. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family and travel.
Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928, the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer. Angelou's older brother Bailey, Jr., nicknamed Marguerite "Maya," derived from "My" or "Mya Sister." When Angelou was three and her brother four, their parents' "calamitous marriage" ended, and their father sent them to Stamps, Arkansas, alone by train, to live with their paternal grandmother Annie Henderson. In "an astonishing exception" to the harsh economics of African Americans of the time, Angelou's grandmother prospered financially during the Great Depression and World War II because the general store she owned sold needed basic commodities and because she "made wise and honest investments".
Four years later, the children's father "came to Stamps without warning" and returned them to their mother's care in St. Louis. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was badly hurt by her mother's boyfriend. Shortly after Maya told about it to her family, the man was shot and killed. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, that "her voice killed him". It was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her.
After the accident, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.
When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again, who had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, Angelou attended the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson).
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Angelou's friend James Baldwin was instrumental in the publication of her first autobiography.
Maya Angelou Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.