On this day in 2014, Actress, Poet and Activist, Maya Angelou passed away. Maya Angelou was a world-famous author and was best known for her unique and pioneering autobiographical writing style.
To honour her life and contributions, The Greek Herald is looking back at her life.
On April 4, 1928, Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.
Angelou’s parents’ had a tumultuous marriage that ended in subsequent divorce so Angelou was sent to live with her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas at an early age.
Her older brother, Bailey, gave Angelou her nickname “Maya.”
At the early age of seven, Angelou was abused by her mother’s boyfriend. The man was jailed at the time and later killed after his release.
Thinking she was responsible for the mans death due to her coming forward and admitting the abuse, Angelou became a mute for six years.
Career and work:
Determined to gain employment, at only 15 years old, Angelou decided to apply for the position of a streetcar conductor. A position left vacant by the men who had left to fight in the war.
Although she was initially and repeatedly rejected for the role due to her race, she was relentless in her applications and eventually she was accepted for the position, becaming the first African American woman to work as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco.
Angelou was employed for a semester but then decided to return to school. She graduated from Mission High School in the summer of 1944 and soon after gave birth to her only child, Clyde Bailey (Guy) Johnson.
In 1949, she married Anastasios “Tosh” Angelos, an electrician in the US Navy. She adopted a form of his surname and kept it throughout her life, even though the marriage ended in divorce in 1952.
In 1969, Angelou published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography of her early life. Her tale of personal strength amid childhood trauma and racism resonated with readers and was nominated for the National Book Award.
She wrote numerous poetry volumes, such as the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Just Give me a Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, written in 1971.
Angelou carried out a wide variety of activities on stage and screen as a writer, actor, director, and producer. In 1972, she became the first African American woman to have her screen play turned into a film with the production of Georgia, Georgia.
In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. It was a fitting recognition for Angelou’s remarkable and inspiring career in the arts.
Maya Angelou passed peacefully at home on May 28, 2014, after frailness and suffering from heart problems.
To honor her legacy, the US Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness on it in 2015.