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Maya Angelou - poet - a Klos family project

Maya Angelou

(b. 1928)

Born on April 4, 1928 in Saint Louis, Missouri, Marguerite Johnson adopted the name Maya Angelou in her twenties when she performed as a dancer at the Purple Onion cabaret.  Her father, Bailey Johnson, was a navy dietician, and her mother was Vivian Johnson.  She has one brother, Bailey, and when her parents divorced when she was three years, they went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.  She loved her grandmother whom she called, "momma, had a deep-brooding love that hung over everything she touched."  Growing up in Stamps, in the Deep South, Maya learned what it was like to grow up in a white controlled world.  She wore hand me down clothes from white women, and was refused to be seen by a white dentist.  She always dreamed that her "nappy black hair" would be transformed into long, flowing blond locks because she thought being a white girl would be so much better.  Her grandmother instilled a strong value for religion while they lived with her. 

After five years with their grandmother, Maya's mother asked that they return to St. Louis to live with her.  Unfortunately, her mother's boyfriend raped her, and as a result she did not talk at all for five years.  Her mother did not know what to do so sent her back to her grandmother.  With the nurturing help of Mrs. Flowers, Maya eventually grew more confident and self-assured. 

Again she and her brother went to live with her mother who was now living in San Francisco.  Her mother's home seemed to be in constant upheaval so she eventually went to live with her father and  his girlfriend in a ramshackle trailer.  Maya found life to be no more stable there so she finally found a place to stay in a car graveyard where other homeless children lived.  She had trouble maturing into an adult due to the lack of stable role models and the constantly changing environments.  At sixteen she found herself pregnant with a son, Guy. 

Due to her transcient lifestyle, Maya experienced various jobs from working as a Creole cook, a streetcar conductor, a cocktail waitress, a dancer, and a madam to later emerging as a singer, actress, playwright, an editor, a lecturer and civil rights activist and a successful writer.  Her volumes include five volumes of poetry and twelve books.  At Bill Clinton's inauguration she read one of her poems "On the Pulse of Morning"as the second person to read her own works at a Presidential Inauguration.  

Much of her early life is recorded in her first book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings which is a wonderful story of transcendence from circumstances.  Sidonie Ann Smith describes Angelou's writing, "like Richard Wright, she opens with a primal childhood scene that brings into focus the nature of the imprisoning environment from which the self will seek escape".  Another reader, Doris Grumbach says of her writing in her second book, Gather Together In My Name, "it is apparent that Angelou is keen, sharp, earthy, imaginative, lyrical, spiritually bold, and seems destined for distinction".   

Since 1981 Dr. Angelou has been residing at Wake Forest University as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies, a lifetime appointment.

by Jane Harter

Research Links

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Maya Angelou - The Official Website
... Dr. Angelou. Dr. Maya Angelou, The Official Website, © 2001.

Maya Angelou - A Look Into
... Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis,
was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. She is a poet, historian ...

maya angelou - links and resources
... A Look into Maya Angelou Circle Association's Maya Angelou Pages Maya Angelou
Dedication Page Another Maya Angelou Page Personal Biography for ...
Description: Excellent page; links to poetry, essays, critisms, aodios etc. of Maya Angelou

Voices From the Gaps: Maya Angelou
Women Writers of Color. Maya Angelou. (b. 1928). ... Maya Angelou. Born April 4, 1928
in Saint Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou's given name was Marguerite Johnson. ...

Maya Angelou - The Academy of American Poets
... Find a Poet > Maya Angelou. Add to a Notebook. Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou was born
Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She grew up in St. ...

Maya Angelou : Teacher Resource File
Maya Angelou : Teacher Resource File. Welcome to the Internet School Library Media
Center Maya Angelou page. ... Sep 1988.EJ492587 Maya Angelou: More Than a Poet. ...

EducETH: Angelou, Maya
... Author. Facts Maya Angelou, born on April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson
in St. ... Maya Angelou talks with Oprah Winfrey, September 30, 2000. ...

Visions: Maya Angelou
... Visions: Maya Angelou. ... Their optimism gives me hope." by Ken Kelley Maya Angelou
speaks in the lilting cadence of the dancer she was trained to be. ...
Description: An interview with Angelou, archived at MoJo Wire--the Mother Jones online website.

WIC Biography - Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou. Greatness Through Literature. Internationally respected
poet, writer and educator, Maya Angelou has given us such best ...

Maya Angelou - Criticism
Maya Angelou: A Bibliography of Literary Criticism. ... Angelou, Maya and Neubaeur,
Carol E. Interview in The Massachusetts Review 28.2 (1987): 286-92. ...

Start your search on Maya Angelou.


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