A hard childhood experience spurred Maya Angelou to be a writer and civil rights activist. She became the first in a wide variety of fields because she was the first African American or woman to do something which showed how the civil rights movement was progressing. Maya Angelou born with the name Marguerite Johnson took her professional pseudonym from her childhood nickname given by her brother and her first husband’s last name. She was poet, novelist, songwriter, play writer, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activists (“Maya Angelou” Poests.org 1). She is best known for her autobiographies.
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. Her parents divorced when she was three which led to Maya and her brother moving to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother, Annie Henderson. While in Stamps, Angelou “Experienced the racial discrimination that was the legally enforced way of life in the American South, but she also absorbed the deep religious faith and old-fashioned courtesy of traditional African American life” (“Maya Angelou Biography” Academy of Achievement 1). In 1935 Maya Angelou and her brother move back to St. Louis to live with their mother. While living there, her mom’s boyfriend sexually abused Maya Angelou. Because her uncle killed the boyfriend, Angelou felt guilty for saying anything about it happening and became mute for a several years. She began to speak again at the age of thirteen. Returning again to her mother’s, Maya Angelou moved to San Francisco. While there she attended school at George Washington High School and studied dance at California Labor School. She dropped out of school for a brief time but returned and finished right before her son was born. While out of school, she worked as the first African American female cable car conductor. She then left home as a single mother to raise her son.
After her son was born, Angelou worked as a waitress and cook to support her son and herself. Still passionate about music and the arts, she began using her professional name, Maya Angelou, as she began her singing career at a nightclub. She toured for two years in the opera Porgy and Bess and soon after recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. In 1972, her script became the first African American Woman to ever be filmed in the film Georgia, Georgia which was nominated for Pulitzer Prize. She appeared on television in Roots and Poetic Justice. In 1996 she directed Down in the Delta, her first feature film and became the first female black director (“Global” 2 ; “Maya Angelou” The Poetry Foundation 1).
Reading during her muteness and her experience writing lyrics sparked an interest in writing. After singing and writing lyrics for a few years, Angelou wanted to improve her writing. She moved to New York and joined the Harlem Writers Guild which is where her writings developed further. She moved to Cairo, Egypt and served as editor of...