Maya Angelou




Mathisen 1
Dan Mathisen
Mrs. Young
English III
18 October 1999

Maya Angelou



Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was born under the name Marguerite Johnson, but her brother Baily renamed her Maya. Her parents, Baily and Vivian Baxter Johnson, got divorced when she was very young. Maya grew up in a very racist town. There were many problems in her life, in which she describes in her autobiographical novel “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. At the age of 16, she became pregnant, while experimenting if her sexual preference was males or females. She had to get numerous jobs to support herself and her son, Clyde, who was later known as Guy.
In 1952, she married a man named Tosh Angelos, but due to his atheist ideals, which grew to be unacceptable to Maya’s religion, the marriage soon ended. In order to have money to support herself and Clyde, she was forced to become a dancer and a bar girl in a strip joint. After she got enough money, she moved to New York and sang at various clubs.
Maya started her writing career in New York with the Harlem Literary Guild. She made contracts which led to her recognition as a producer, director, and performer.
In 1960, she married a South African freedom fighter, Vusumzi Make. They both got jobs as editors of the Arab Observer. The marriage ended three years later, and Maya moved to Ghana. She felt at home for the first time of her life. This is when she started her first writings.
Maya was nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in “Roots” and “Georgia, Georgia”. She also received a Pulitzer Prize Nomination for her poems “Just Give Me a Cool Drink ‘fore I Die” (1971) and “And Still I Rise” (1976).
Being President Bill Clinton’s favorite writer, he asked her to write and deliver a poem for his 1993 presidential inauguration. She also wrote a poem for the “Million Man March”.
“On the Pulse of Morning” became a best-selling book on 20 January 1993.
Now, Maya is a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forrest University in North Carolina.







I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to express the hardships of growing up a black woman in the time of racism and hatred. During this autobiography of Maya’s life, she tells about how racist people are against her and her family, along with every other black, and how being a girl is also hard due to rapes and having to have children. People were also very religious at this time to the point that if someone did something against the religion, they would receive a beating.
When Maya was three, and Bailey, her brother, four, they both left Long Beach, California to live with their father’s mother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. They grew so much respect for Anne, that they soon called her Momma. They lived with Momma and Uncle Willie, who is crippled. Momma owned a store in the center of town which became a big success. All of the workers in town went there for lunch every afternoon.
Momma was very religious, to the point that the kids would get hit every time they disobey the religion. Uncle Willie was also very strict. He made Maya and Baily at ages five and six, learn the times tables. Then he would test them and if they made a mistake, he would push them closer to the heater.
The town that they live in is extremely racist. Every black talked about how dirty the white men are, they called them “powhitetrash”. Almost every day, being that all blacks hated whites, and vice-versa, a bunch of whites would go to the store to make fun, abuse, command Momma around the store. “People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate” (Angelou 49).

“A light shade had been pulled down between the Black
community and all things white, but one could see through
it enough to develop a fear-admiration-contempt for the white
‘things’ – white folks’ cars and white