Marguerite Johnson, also known as Maya Angelou, was born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She died on May 28, 2014, at age 86. Throughout her life she wanted the world to hear what she had to say whether it was through her music, poetry, dance, or singing, also through her activist work. She was also an editor, director, producer, and actress.
When Maya was a young girl she didn't have the best childhood. Her parents had split up when she was very young, and then she and her brother Bailey were sent to live with her father's mother in Stamps, Arkansas. What made her childhood even worse was at the age of 7 she went to visit her mother and was sexual assaulted by her mother's boyfriend. Maya's uncles found out and killed the man. The whole experience was so traumatizing that she stopped speaking.
At the age of 13 she and her brother moved to San Francisco and were reunited with their mother. Soon after that Maya began speaking again. In her teens she won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. But sadly she dropped out at 14 to become the first African-American female cable car conductor. 2 years later she gave birth to a baby boy that she named Guy Johnson.
In 1957 that's when Maya's music career took off. She recorded an album called Calypso. Soon after in 1958 she moved to New York and joined the Harlem Writers Guild. It was an African-American writers group that was started in 1950. It helped writers develop their work. While in New York she acted in an off-broadway show called The Blacks. She also wrote and acted in Cabaret for Freedom.
Maya moved to Egypt and was an editor for The Arab Observer. After that year was up she moved to Ghana and became a professor at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama. During the Civil Rights Movement she became friends with Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before Malcolm X was killed in 1965, Maya was planning on helping him create his organization. Maya was a Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for MLK in 1960. At that time she was a struggling actress and a single mother. On Maya's birthday in 1968 MLK was killed. After that she didn't celebrate her birthday. Instead she sent flowers to his widow, Coretta Scott King, up until her death in 2006.
In 1993 she won a Grammy for best spoken word album that featured her inaugural poem "On the Pulse of Morning" that she read at Bill Clinton's inauguration earlier that year. In 1995 she won her second Grammy for another spoken word album for her poem "Phenomenal Woman." That's just 2 of over 50 awards that she has won in her lifetime.
Maya Angelou has truly touched the hearts of billions with her words. Her words inspire the hearts of so many, and even though she has passed she is still touching people's hearts. Many people know her for her story I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She took her own struggles and turned them into success making her a true legend. "I say, It’s in the click of my heels,/ The bend of my hair,/ the palm of my hand,/ The need for my care./ ’Cause I’m a woman/ Phenomenally./ Phenomenal woman,/That’s me./" These are just a few lines from her poem "Phenomenal Woman." Maya may have been a one in a million person. She wrote as if she know each person that reads her writing, listens to her music, or anything else that she created. She made it easy for people to be able to relate to her in some way. That is why she will be forever dearly missed. Long live Maya, for her words keep her legacy alive.