Maya Angelou is an African-American poet and memoirist who used to also sing and dance and was a huge supporter of the Civil Rights. She is famous for her autobiographies which number 7 and besides writing, Maya was also a director, producer, and an actor. Maya’s detailed account of her life was respected by the African women and people, but at the same time, there were attempts to ban her books from the US libraries. What was Maya’s life like that she openly and publicly discussed in her books? Let us find out.
Maya as a child
Maya’s real name was Marguerite Annie Johnson. She was born on 4 April 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Her parents were Bailey Johnson (doorman and navy dietitian) and Vivian Johnson (nurse and card dealer). Maya had an older brother. When she was 3, her parents divorced and the children were sent to Arkansas to their paternal grandmother’s house.
They were again sent to their mother’s home and it was here that Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend named Freeman. When Maya alerted her family on it, Freeman was jailed for a day and after release was killed most probably by Maya’s uncles. Maya thought that her complaint had killed the man and she became quiet for almost 5 years. During these years, she read a lot and began a liking for literature.
The adulthood and initial career
Maya married around this time and commenced taking dance classes and doing some performances. These were not successful and she then started studying African dance. She performed at various nightclubs and during the same time, her marriage collapsed.
She toured Europe with a dance group and tried to learn the languages of every country she visited with the tour. She also released her first album called Miss Calypso in 1957. She also appeared on Broadway and sang her own compositions.
Her writing career
Maya met novelist John Oliver Killens who inspired her to do writing. She also used to act, direct and produce plays at this time. She moved to Cairo and became an associate editor at the weekly English-language newspaper The Arab Observer. She then took up a job in Ghana of an administrator at the University of Ghana and also used to edit The African Review. She also worked freelance.
Return to the US
In 1965, she made a comeback to the US and worked for Civil Rights. She also sang and wrote and worked as a market researcher. She also met and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. Her first autobiography called ‘I know why the caged bird sings’ was published in 1969 and won her critical acclaim.
She took to writing seriously and wrote 7 autobiographies, several short stories, articles, TV scripts, documentaries, poetry and also produced plays and directed them. She also was seen in a supporting role in 1977’s Roots. She won several honorary awards. She took up a job as a Professor at the Wake Forest University, NC. She was also part of Presidential campaigns and inaugurations.
Her private life
She was married to Tosh Angelos in 1951 but divorced him later. She had a relationship with Vusumzi Make in 1961 and had married Paul de Feu in 1974. She had one son withTosh who was called Guy.
Maya was in poor health for some time prior to her death. She died on 28 May 2014 and was discovered by her nurse. Her son said:
“She left this mortal plane with no loss of acuity and no loss in comprehension“