“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated”, these are the words of the famous artist Maya Angelou(“Biography”). She had a very difficult childhood that led to her many career choices. Throughout her life she has held many different careers. Also, her life was constantly changing and full of different stories along the way. She wrote many works, but is only remembered for a few major pieces. She also received many awards for her writings and acting abilities throughout her lifetime. Angelou majorly impacted the literary world with her moving pieces. Maya Angelou was an exceptional person with extraordinary talents who influenced not only the literary world, but society as well with her many works and talents.
First of all, Maya Angelou’s childhood was very difficult and majorly influenced her th future. She was born on April 4
, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Maya Angelou’s full name was
Marguerite Annie Johnson. When she was very young her parents, Vivian Baxter and Bailey
Johnson, divorced. After that, her and her brother(Bailey) went to live with her paternal grandmother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. It was her brother who first nicknamed her
“Maya”. Angelou would call her grandmother Mamma. They lived in the back of a store that her grandmother and Uncle Willie had owned for 25 years. Her grandmother was very influential in her life, especially when it came to religion. She made sure that they made it to church every
Sunday. At around age 8, Angelou went back to Missouri to visit her mother. During this visit, her mothers boyfriend raped her. After that happened, she told some other adults and her uncles murdered the boyfriend. Angelou thought in some way she had killed him by “telling on him” so she remained mute for the next few years. Mrs. Flowers was the one who helped her to speak again and she got Angelou interested in reading William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Paul
Laurence Dunbar. As a young African American child in Stamps, Arkansas, Angelou witnessed racial prejudice from a young age and this helped shape her as a person. Maya Angelou had a lot of different careers throughout her lifetime that influenced her works. She was an author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet, singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, professor, journalist, television producer, film producer, and much more. In 1940, her and her mother moved to San Francisco, California. It was here that she received her professional name as a dancer. She held many jobs in California including a cocktail waitress, a prostitute, a cook, and a dancer. While in California, she took a job as a street car conductor and was the first African American woman to do so. She attended school at George Washington High
School in San Francisco, California. When she was in California she got a scholarship for dance and acting at the California Labor School, where she also attended. At age 16 she had her first son, Claude “Guy”, in 1944. This son came from a fling in high school that did not last long.
Then, in the 1950’s, she moved to New York City, New York. There she became a member of the Harlem Writers Guild. In 1952 she got married to Anastasios Angelopulos. He was a Greek sailor and this is how she got the other part of her name. She eventually divorced him and remarried twice to
Vusumzi Make and then Paul De Feu. In 1957 she was in an “offBroadway” show
Calypso Heat Wave
. She also released her first album,
, in that same year.
She also was featured in
Porgy and Bess about the same time she got to New York. The show toured 22 countries in Europe and Africa. She was also privileged to get to study dance with
Martha Graham and Pearl Primus. In the late 1950’s, Angelou and her son Guy, lived in a houseboat commune. Next, she went to Africa during the 1960’s and worked at the University of
Ghana. In 1961 she moved to Cairo and