About Maya AngelouMaya Angelou formerly known as Marguerite Ann Johnson, was an African American poet, writer, dancer, singer and actor. She changed her name following the recommendation of her managers when she was a dancer from 'Marguerite Johnson' or 'Rita' to 'Maya Angelou'. She was also increasingly successful as a singer and dancer and toured Europe from 1954 to 1955 with Porgy and Bess. She has traveled a lot and she used her time in each country to acquire language skills. She speaks English, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic. As a dancer she also participated in the world premiere of Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite. On May 28, 2014, she died peacefully in her home.
Angelou wrote a total of seven autobiographies, with which her work is inextricably linked to her life, a story of survival despite having been the victim of racial segregation, sexism and multiple traumatic experiences. According to scholar Mary Jane Lupton, Angelou's third autobiography, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas published in 1976, marked the first time that a well-known African-American author wrote a third volume about his life. Her books 'go beyond of time and space', from Arkansas to Africa and back to the United States and narrated from the beginning of World War II until the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. Angelou published her seventh autobiography 'Mom & Me & Mom' in 2013, at the age of 85. Throughout the process of writing her autobiography, Angelou became a recognized figure and highly respected spokesperson for African-Americans and women in general. She became, without any doubt, the most visible color autobiographer in the United States and a great voice of the autobiography of that time. Writer Gary Younge said: Probably to a greater extent than almost any living author, Angelou's life is literally her job. Angelou also wrote five collections of essays, which have been described as 'wisdom books' and 'homilies linked to autobiographical texts' by the writer Hilton Als. Exceptionally, Angelou had the same editor throughout her career, Robert Loomis, who was an executive editor of Random House; He retired in 2011 and has been considered 'one of the members of the publishers' hall of fame'. Angelou said the following about her long relationship with Loomis: 'We have a relationship that is famous among publicists'.
She has been introduced to poetry by her teacher Bertha Flowers, who was a goo friend to her family. She brought Maya various books and made her familiar with numerous authors, such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson and James Weldon Johnson but also with living African-American artists such as Frances Harper, Anne Spencer and Jessie Fauset. In 1959, she met the writer John Oliver Killens, who persuaded her to move to New York City to focus on writing. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild, where she made contacts with major African-American authors such as John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall and Julian Mayfield and published works for the first time.
In her book 'I know why the caged bird sings', Maya quotes her teacher: 'You do not love poetry. You will never love her until you speak to her. Until she comes over your tongue through your teeth through your teeth, you'll never love poetry'. When 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' was first published in 1969, Angelou was hailed as a new type of memory authors, one of the first African-American women to be able to discuss publicly about her personal life. According to academician Hilton Als, until then female authors of the black race had been marginalized in such a way that it was impossible for them to present themselves as the central figure in the literature they wrote. Academician John McWhorter, on the other hand, considered Angelou works 'extensions' of tolerant writing'. He considered Angelou an advocate of black culture. Angelou was particularly impressed by William Shakespeare and especially his sonnet 29. Angelou found herself in this sonnet again and again and again said: 'I thought: Shakespeare was a black girl'.
She was a prolific writer and her poetry book 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie' was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' during his presidential inauguration in 1993. She is also known for 'Letter to my Daughter' published in 2008 and which could be described as her spiritual testament.
In 1960, Maya Angelou first heard and met the civil rights activist Martin Luther King. She then co-organized with Killens the 'Cabaret for Freedom' in favor of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), after which she was named Northern Coordinator.
In 1961, as an activit, she went to Africa with the South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make. She first lived in Cairo and worked for the English-language newspaper The Arab Observer. After separating from Make in 1962, she moved to Ghana with her son Guy and worked until 1965 at the University of Ghana. She was also an editor for The African Review and a freelance journalist for the Ghanaian Times. The experience of these years fro 1957 to 1962 is particularly described in her autobiographical volume The Heart of a Woman. The title of this book was taken from a poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson, a representative of the Harlem Renaissance.
Read Maya Angelou best poems. This is a compiled list of her most notorious work in poetry. In poetry, she is best known for her poems Phenomenal Woman and Touched by an Angel listed below.
Browse all poems and texts published on Maya Angelou
The most popular of her best and famous poems: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, recites a part of her difficult adolescence and racist attacks in Arkansas.