Women in history: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American author, poet, and civil rights activist. She was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in a segregated society in the southern United States.

Angelou’s childhood was marked by trauma and hardship. She was raped at the age of seven by her mother’s boyfriend, and after she spoke out about the abuse, the man was killed, leading Angelou to believe that her voice had caused his death. She stopped speaking for almost five years and found solace in books and poetry.

At the age of 16, Angelou became the first African American female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She later moved to New York City, where she pursued her passion for dance and theater and became involved in the civil rights movement.

In 1969, Angelou published her first autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became a bestseller and was nominated for a National Book Award. The book chronicled her experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South and dealt with themes of racism, trauma, and resilience.

Angelou went on to publish several more books, including more autobiographies, poetry collections, and essays. She also worked as a journalist and a professor at Wake Forest University.

Throughout her life, Angelou was a vocal advocate for civil rights and social justice. She was awarded numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86. She is remembered as a powerful voice in American literature and a trailblazer for women and African Americans.

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