Born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou was raised in St. Louis and Stamps,
Arkansas. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was only three and she was sent with her brother Bailey to live with their grandmother in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. In Stamps, as the young girl experienced the racial discrimination that was the legally enforced way of life in the South, but she also was involved with the deep religious faith and old-fashioned traditional African American life. She credits her grandmother and her extended family with enforcing in her the values that informed her later life and career. She enjoyed a close relationship with her brother. Her brother was never able to pronounce her name because of a stutter.
At the age of seven, while visiting her mother in Chicago, she was sexually molested by her mother's boyfriend. Too ashamed to tell anyone in her life, she finally gave in and told her brother. When she later heard that an uncle had killed her attacker, she felt that her words had killed that man. She fell into silence and did not speak for five years. As a teenager, Maya’s love for the arts won her a scholarship to study dance and drama at San
Francisco’s Labor School.
At 14, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook, however her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry soon came first.
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 with a form of her husband's name. Although the marriage did not last, her performing career flourished. She toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess in 1954 and 1955. She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin
Ailey on television variety shows and recorded her first record album, Calypso Lady in 1957. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in the historic
Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom. In 1960, Angelou moved to Cairo, Egypt where she served as editor of the English language weekly. During her years abroad, Angelou read and studied voraciously, mastering