Maya Angelou:Poet & SurvivorKayley AugerHumanities AMMr. Dostal & Ms. NicholsonJanuary 31, 2018 Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Maya Angelou had a very hard childhood. Her parents split up when she was very young and her oldest brother, Bailey, was sent away to live with their grandmother in a small town called Stamps, Arkansas. As a young girl she experienced racial discrimination that was illegally enforced in the South. Her mother’s boyfriend raped Maya when she was only 7 years old, shorty after that her uncle killed him.
Maya was so traumatized, she stopped talking and remained mute for many years. Maya began to speak again when she was 13. Her brother Bailey joined with their mother again in San Francisco. Maya attended Mission High School where she won a scholarship to study dance and drama. She dropped out of school to become the first African American female cable car conductor. She later returned to high school. She had a son named Guy in high school when she was only 16.
She had a difficult life as a single mother, supporting herself and her son being a waitress. But she did not give up her dreams of dancing, acting, and poetry. In 1952, she married a Greek sailor named Anastasios Angelopulos. When she began her career as a nightclub singer, she took the professional name Maya Angelou, combining her childhood nickname (My and Mya Sister) with a form of her husband’s name. Her marriage did not last long but her performing career continued. She then moved to New York where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild that was associated with the Civil Rights Movement. Maya Angelou was not the only one in Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s-1960s. She was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.
‘s speak. Maya and Martin Luther King organized a historic fundraiser for the the Staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Cabaret for Freedom was a show that Maya served as the writer and co-producer. She took the job joining with other civil rights activists which included Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King, Jr.
At that time she helped to raise the resources that allowed Dr. King and others to organize historic events. In 1968, Dr. King was assassinated which left her devastated. With the guidance of her friend, a writer James Baldwin, she began to work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings with her.
The book tells the story of her life from her childhood in Arkansas to the birth of her child. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1970. Overnight Maya became a national figure. In the following years her books and autobiographies won her a huge international audience. In 1993, she read her poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton which was broadcast all over the world. Maya’s performing was still on in 1997, she sang during the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.
President Barack Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to honor Maya Angelou in her writing. After experiencing health issues for years, Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014 in her home Winston Salem, North Carolina. The news of her passing away spread quickly and everyone was devastated. President Barack Obama also issued a statement about Angelou, calling her “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.”