Maya Angelou: American Poet, Memoirist and Civil Rights Activist

At just three years old, Maya’s parents divorced, where she thereafter moved with her brother to stay with their grandmother in Arkansas. Her childhood took a traumatic twist when she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at just seven years old. When Maya spoke out about it, her rapist was murdered by her uncles. These traumatic events lead to her remaining mute for five years as she believed that the man’s murder was her fault.


In 1940, Maya moved to San Francisco with her mother and had her son, Guy, at seventeen years after she had graduated from high school. During her time in San Francisco, she worked as a cocktail waitress, prostitute, a cook, and as a dancer in a strip club.


In the late 1950’s, the poet moved to New York City where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild and found the encouragement to read her writing to the group. It was here where her interest in fighting for the rights of black American women grew. After being inspired by listening to Martin Luther King, she soon joined his team in fighting for their rights.


Maya Angelou has a series of seven autobiographies, which tells the stories of her experiences growing up in the world of racial oppression and sexual violence. Her first memoir being the most popular one, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, talks about her childhood trauma after being sexually abused and silenced for five years.


Amongst her autobiographies, the writer has also published books of essays and poetry, was an actress, and has directed and produced a number of plays, movies and television shows. Many saw her literary works as the voice of black culture and inequality.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” – Maya Angelou