Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, but grew up mostly in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother. There she faced many obstacles and tragedies which I could never give due justice through my own words. It is best to reference her multi-volume autobiography to be exposed to the true nature of those moments. So rather, I will use this bio to give a brief synopsis of some fascinating moments in her life:
1928: Born in St. Louis Missouri.
1931: Her parents divorced and she was sent to racially divided Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother.
1936: Sent back to her mother, but was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and went into a state of shock. This act caused Maya to be nearly mute for approximately 5 years. During which her mother sent her back to Arkansas because of the difficulty of dealing with Maya’s bleak condition.
1940: She and her brother reunited with her mother in San Francisco, California. Her relationship with her mother soon became terribly dysfunctional and she ran away to live with her father. Living with him was just as problematic, so she left again and lived on the streets for a month until she finally returned to her mother. Her troubled childhood lead to social problems, which concluded in her giving birth to her son Guy at 16.
1959-1960: At the request of Dr. Martin Luther King she became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
1961-1962: Associate editor of an English language news weekly in Cairo, Egypt called The Arab Observer.
1963-1966: Teacher and assistant administrator of the School of Music & Drama at the University of Ghana.
1964 to 1966: Was the feature editor of the African Review in Accra, Ghana.
1970: Writer-in-resistance for the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
1974: Was a distinguished visiting professor at Wake Forest University, Wichita State University, and California State University of Sacramento.
1975-1976: Appointed by Gerald Ford to the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission.
1981+ Received a lifetime appointment for American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Maya Angelou has done more in her life than most could ever aspire to. She can speak Spanish, Italian, Arabic, West African Fanti, and English fluently. Along with being a writer of books, she has also written 6 plays and 2 screenplays. Her writings have been honored with nominations for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. Maya is also an accomplished thespian, appearing in 9 plays and films including Roots and Look Away. Maya was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for “Look Away,” and her work in Roots received an Emmy Award nomination. These are only a few of the countless credits to her name, which include nearly 30 honorary degrees from Universities and Human Rights Awards from many prominent organizations.
Maya Angelou is an awe-aspiring example of what a human being is capable of. Despite a troubled past, she overcame all obstacles to become one of the most important Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights activists. She has been successful at using every form of communication to convey her message of equality and tolerance. She is unquestionably one of the most influential women in history, and she will forever live through her remarkable work.
A good deal of the timeline comes from her own website at www.mayaangelou.com
Other internet sources used. Far more than necessary, but I use them as a cross reference to better ensure accuracy.
Please message me, Woburn, with any comments, criticisms, or mistakes. Thank you.
Maya Angelou was found dead by her caretaker on the morning of May 28, 2014. The cause of death has yet to be determined. She was 86 years old.