Maya Angelou was a fantastic person. I have really enjoyed learning more about her and I think that you may learn something new as well. Maya had divorced parents almost her entire life and lived with her paternal grandma for many years. She had one sibling an older brother named Bailey. Throughout her life Maya overcame many struggles and barriers. Maya Angelou is a woman of astounding intelligence and strength.
Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was born with the name Marguerite Annie Johnson. At the age of three Maya’s parents got divorced and her older brother Bailey and her were sent to Stamps, Arkansas. Where they lived with their paternal grandmother. Bailey still couldn’t pronounce marguerite and gave her the nickname Maya. As the two of them grew they held a tight bond and helped their grandma and crippled Uncle run the store. They went to school and played games with the other black kids in Stamps. One Christmas Bailey and Maya each received a present from their mom and a present from their dad. Maya was starstruck that she had gotten gifts from her parents. Before that Maya had nothing else to believe other than her parents were dead. Later that year their dad showed up at the doorstep. He arrived in a fancy car and used very nice English skills. His name was Bailey Johnson and he stayed for a couple of weeks. He was a very funny man and there was laughter each night.
One day Big Bailey said he was leaving and the children were to go with him. The next day they climbed into the car and drove to St. Louis where their mom was living. Their mom’s name was Vivian Baxter Johnson and she was stunningly beautiful. In St. Louis Bailey and Maya enrolled in the Toussaint L’Ouverture Grammar School. After a bit they were moved up a grade because of their work at the store in Stamps. Their arithmetic was outstanding and their reading skills were fantastic too. Every night Maya’s mom would make dinner and then go out and party. While she was gone her boyfriend Mr. Freeman would come home and sit down to wait for her. Before bed Bailey and Maya would read book after book. Sometimes on weekends Maya would get scared and couldn’t fall asleep as she was pulled into the dark, scary stories she was reading. On thoughs nights her mom would let her sleep in the bed with her and Mr. Freeman. One morning Maya woke in her parents bed, her mom was leaving for an early errand and Maya fell back asleep. That morning Maya experienced being held in inappropriate manners by Mr. Freeman. He knew Maya adored Bailey and he threatened to kill Bailey if she told anyone. A month later Maya jumped onto Mr. Freeman’s lap slightly longing for his strong arms to hug her again. Then she was over it and found a routine to go to the library every Saturday.
One Saturday as Bailey was leaving to go play basketball and Maya was headed to the library Mr. Freeman stopped Maya and asked her to go get milk. She went to the store and hurried back. As she was about to leave again but Mr. Freeman stopped her and told her to come over. He raped her that day and she felt striking pain not knowing what was going on. All she could do after that was go hide the evidence and lay in bed. Everyone thought that she was sick and the doctor was called in multiple times to check on her. A few days later her mom insisted she take a bath and that the sheets need to be washed. But as Bailey took of the sheet the one bit of evidence was uncovered. The next thing she knew she was in the hospital with Bailey hovering over her asking who did it. Maya was brave but she couldn’t bring herself to risk her brothers death so all she could explain was that the man would kill Bailey if she ever told. Bailey reassured her by saying no one could kill him and her little seven year old believed him. She told him and after she healed and was told multiple times by many nurses that she didn’t have anything to worry about now and the worst is over for you.
Next Maya had to face courte, where most of the adult population of St. Louis was there to hear more on the latest excitement. At the time she didn’t really know what happened and only could assume that Mr. Freeman had done something really bad. Mr. Freeman got jail time of a year and one day, although that didn’t last for long. His lawyer got him out later that day and he was found kicked to death in a parking lot. Everyone new that Maya’s uncles killed him, they were some of the most violent people in St. Louis. When Maya heard of this occurrence she stopped speaking and went mute. She thought that her talking had killed the man and that people may just die in her footsteps if she talked to them. She only had one exception, Bailey she new that she loved Bailey way to much for her speech to kill him. They were sent back to the small town of Stamps and helped their grandma in the store once again. A few years later Maya remained mute but a nice women Mrs. Flowers who lived in Little Rock, Arkansas with a little bungalow in Stamps brought her back to her love of books and introduced her to poetry. Maya graduated eighth grade almost at the top of the class with a perfect attendance.
Maya was mute for six years before she gathered the courage to speak again. At the age of twelve Maya found out that she and Bailey would be going to California to live with their mom. She and her grandma went first and Bailey came a month later because of payment. They lived in an apartment in Las Angeles until their mom had a living situation ready in Oakland. In Oakland Maya attended High school and took dance and drama classes. During her final year of high school Maya became pregnant and had a son right after graduation. Then she moved out of the house as a single mom and worked hard to support her son. This is when she started her adult life.
Maya Angelou had an adulthood full of fighting for Civil Rights and adventure. She married a Greek sailor named Anastasios Angelopulos in 1952. Their marriage did not last long, but after they divorced Maya moved forward with her life as a single mother of one again. Soon she moved to New York and fell in love with a civil rights activist Vusumzi Make and they moved to Cairo, Egypt. They spent some time there and then moved to Ghana. After meeting Malcolm X Maya and her husband moved back to the United States. She spent the next long tears of her life Writing, reading, speaking and enjoying time with friends and family. Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014 at her home in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. At the age of eighty-six after a series of health issues.
Maya Angelou had many careers throughout her life. At the age of sixteen Maya wanted to get a job. First she applied for the Women’s Army corp. but her application was denied. Next she requested an application for a streetcar conductor in San Francisco, after requesting every single day for three weeks, the company let in. Maya applied as a nineteen year old because she was younger than the legal working age. She was accepted and became the first African American Women to become a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Once she was married to the Greek sailor she started singing at night clubs. She gave herself the stage name Maya Angelou combining her childhood nickname and part of her husband’s name. When her husband and her divorced she kept the name and her singing career flourished. She went on a tour in Europe from 1954 to 1955 for the Opera Porgy and Bess. maya continued to study dance and released an album in 1957 called Calypso Lady.
By the end of the 1950’s she wanted to improve her writing and joined the Harlem writers guild and joined many young writers who were passionate about civil rights. Maya also wrote and acted in a number of movies such as The Blackers and Cabaret To Freedom. When she and her new husband moved to Cairo she was an editor for the english weekly of The Arab Observer. Next they moved to Ghana where she was an instructor and assistant administrator for the University of Ghana’s school of music and dance. Maya was also the editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times and The Ghanaian Broadcasting Company. During her years abroad Maya also spent her time becoming fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language Fanti. Once again Maya found herself drawn to civil rights back in the U.S. when she met Malcolm X in Ghana and decided to go back with plans of helping him start a new organization. Unfortunately right as she got back and settled Malcolm was assassinated and his plans of the organization died with him. She found herself back in America with nowhere to go, so she starred in many TV productions. She also still worked on civil rights and worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted Maya to be the northern coordinator for The Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated she was devastated. It just happened that he was assassinated on her birthday in 1968. Maya was lost at what to do after the assassination and James Baldwin a great writer and friend helped her find her writing. He encouraged her to write and book and then I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was born. Almost overnight Maya had become famous in 1970 when the book was published. This book is now known to us as an American Classic and a fabulous autobiography. Over the next couple of years she wrote and published many more books and wrote a screenplay called Georgia, Georgia in 1972. It was the first screenplay to ever be filmed by an African American woman and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
While writing Maya became a Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. Many presidents also recognized her through their presidency. President Ford gave her a spot in the American Revolution Bicentennial Commision, President Carter had her serve for the Presidential Commision for the International year of the Women and president Clinton asked her to have the honor of writing and reading the poem for his inauguration speech in 1993 called On the Pulse of the Morning. In 2000 Maya was honored with the Presidential Medal of Arts and received the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal in 2008. Some of her documentary films were also nominated for various awards. Finally in 2011 President Barack Obama awarded her the highest civilian honor in the nation, The Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Maya Angelou is a role model to me and millions of others. She symbolizes being strong during change and never giving up. Maya accomplished so much in the eighty-six years she was alive. She wrote seven autobiographies and over a dozen works of poetry. Maya Angelou will definitely be remembered for a long time. She is a person who showed immense strength and courage through the good and the bad times.
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