Maya Angelou: Phenomenal Woman Who Continues To Rise
Maya Angelou recently became the first African-American woman to appear on a US Quarter.
Maya Angelou, best known for her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, became the first American- African woman to be on the US Quarter. She is known to be one of the most celebrated poets, civil-rights activist, and memoirist in the history. Born on April 4, 1928, Maya had a difficult early life but, her extraordinary personality and her prolific work became an inspiration for many generations to come.
Here Are 10 Things That You Must Know About Her:
1. She was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson but later in her career changed her name to Maya after her nickname ‘My’ or ‘Mine’ given by her elder brother Bailey Jr.
2. As a child Maya had a tough life. Her parents divorced when she was only 3 and when she was only 8, her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, sexually abused and raped her. The incident shook Maya deeply and she went mute for almost 5 years.
3. Her love for literature and poetry began in her childhood. Her teacher Mrs. Bertha Flower introduced her to authors and artists such as Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jessie Fauset, Anne Spencer etc., and also encouraged her to start speaking again.
4. While Maya is best known as a writer, editor, poet and an activist, she did multiple jobs throughout her career. She worked as a streetcar conductor, fry cook, sex worker, a nightclub performer, singer, dancer, actress, composer, educator, and Hollywood’s first female black director. The list is endless!
5. She worked extensively on Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She served as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s northern coordinator.
6. After the encouragement from her friend and author James Baldwin, she started writing her first of seven autobiographies, ‘I Know Why Caged Birds Sing’ which made her a public figure overnight. It took her 15 years to complete her sixth book ‘Song Flung up to Heaven’ (2002).
7. Aneglou’s love for writing extended to children’s books, cookbooks, poetry, screenplay and essays.
8. Her work dealt with the themes of social justice, political activism, racism, identity, resilience and spirit of women especially Black women.
9. She received several accolades for her contribution to the society including over 50 honorary degrees, the Spingarn Medal (1994), National Medal of Arts (2000) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S (2011). She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in the US (1998).
10. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton’s Presidential Inauguration. And in June 1995, she delivered her poem "A Brave and Startling Truth" at the United Nations commemorating its 50th anniversary.
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