The Family and Childhood of Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

‘If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you are.’ Throughout her lifetime, Maya Angelou has been able to produce many notable works including seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. Many documentaries and films have been made in her memory to commemorate her existence and achievements. A numerous number of honorable awards and degrees have been accredited to her during her career. Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist who had a very successful life and career, who has written remarkable poetry in her lifetime, and who has had a huge impact on history. (Nelson ‘Biography: Maya Angelou’ 2019)

Born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri, Marguerite Johnson, formerly known as Maya Angelou, grew up with her older brother Bailey, who she loved dearly and considered him more than a brother; not only was he her closest family member, he was her best friend. Her parent’s divorce caused her to move with her brother to Stamps, Arkansas to start living under her grandmother’s roof. There, she was taught by her uncle how to read. Soon enough, Maya developed an undying passion and love for books and stories. However, things started getting serious when she moved back with her mother and her boyfriend. At the young age of seven, she started getting sexually abused and assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend and was debating whether or not to keep her silence.

When she finally got the courage to inform her mother about the abuse, Maya’s uncle shot the boyfriend out of rage. Angelou started thinking that her cry for help was what led to his demise, so she refused to use her voice to express herself for the next upcoming years. While World War II was occuring, Angelou received a scholarship at the California Labor School, an educational house in San Francisco, in order to study both dance and acting. At that time, Maya was also being recognized in San Francisco for becoming the first black female cable car conductor. This position did not last long, however; since shortly after, she returned to her studies. During Maya her senior year, she became pregnant. Angelou gave birth at the age of sixteen to her son, who now goes by the name “Guy Johnson”. Living as a single mother having to take care of her baby, Angelou found herself needing to work a numerous amount of jobs such as being a waitress and a cook to be able to financially support both her and her baby. (‘Maya Angelou’ 2012)

Angelou’s talent for dancing, singing, and acting started appearing later on in her life until after she graduated from her high school in California in the mid-1950s. In 1952, she married Greek sailor Anastasios Angelopulos, and traded in her waitress uniform for a microphone. She became a singer and started going by the name “Maya Angelou”. The marriage didn’t last, but her career flourished, landing a role in the opera Porgy and Bess which also allowed her to tour 22 countries around Europe. In 1957, she was also able to record and release her album “Calypso Lady”. Cabaret for Freedom and Calypso Heat Wave are two off-Broadway productions Angelou appeared in, along with many other plays.

During the early 1960s, Maya’s unique journey continued when she moved to Cairo, Egypt with her then lover, South African civil rights activist, Vusumzi Make. There, she was working as the associate editor for the Arab Observer, and, in addition, was also submitting different articles for The Ghanaian Times. Angelou also had the opportunity to get featured on the GBC, the public broadcaster in Ghana. Living in Accra, Ghana, she took the position of assistant administrator at the School of Music and Drama in the University of Ghana. From 1964 to 1966, Maya got to work as the feature editor on The African Review. Once back to the United States, Angelou received a request from human rights activist, Malcolm X to help build his organization of African American unity. His assassination in 1985, led this plan to fail. In addition, the assassination of Martin civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. left Maya devastated. Her very intriguing experiences, however, served as the inspiration for her memoir: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, published in 1970. Covering the early years of her life, it was a great achievement made. (Kite, Loos, & Shapiro ‘Maya Angelou Biography’)

In the following years, more books followed, including four more volumes of her autobiography. By the 1980s and 1990s, America as a whole, regardless of race, had a profound appreciation of her talents as an artist, a poet, and writer. Now, Maya Angelou is widely seen as a national treasure. In 1993, Bill Clinton, then the incoming president of the United States, requested her to compose a poem which she had to recite at the inauguration.

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