About the Speaker
Maya Angelou is one of the most famous advocates of womens rights and black heritage.
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Detailed Biography of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a famous African American poet, who has written plays, screenplays and autobiographies. Her work focuses on themes such as identity, family and racism, and is used in schools across the globe. Maya’s award winning series of six memoirs brought her international recognition and acclaim.
Maya was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928, under the given name of Marguerite Ann Johnson. Her childhood was troubled, and at age eight her mother’s boyfriend raped her. A few days after being released from jail, he was found kicked to death. Due to the trauma of this series of events, Angelou was mute for almost five years. A teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, helped Maya speak again and introduced her to many authors, which helped foster the future writer she was to become.
During World War II, Maya attended George Washington High School, studying dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. After graduating, she gave birth to her son, Clyde, another future poet, later known as Guy Johnson.
At seventeen, as a struggling single mother, Maya made a living as a prostitute and as the madam of a brothel. By age twenty-four, she won a scholarship to train in African dance and later, modern dance. In 1957, she recorded her first album, Miss Calypso. In 1962, she and Guy moved to Ghana, where she taught at the University of Ghana's School of Music and Drama. Maya returned to the United States and became active in the Civil Rights movement with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
Maya has appeared in the television mini-series Roots and her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia, was the first original script by a Black woman to be produced. Her 1971 volume of poetry was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and in 2011; President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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