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Profile of the Day: Maya Angelou

Today we remember poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou on what would have been her 95th birthday. The award-winning author published numerous books of poetry, essays, and autobiographies which dealt with themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.

Image: Maya Angelou / Wikimedia Commons

Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri to Bailey Johnson, a doorman and navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a nurse and card dealer. By the time she was three, her parents were divorced. As a child, she was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, who was arrested and found guilty, but served only one day in jail. Shortly after his release, he was beaten to death. The traumatic event left Angelou mute for almost five years. It was during this period of silence that she developed her love for poetry and literature.

In 1969, she published her groundbreaking memoire, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which focused on her early life as a child coming of age. The book received much critical acclaim and is widely regarded as Angelou’s greatest work. She would go on to publish six more autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. A prolific writer, Angelou’s writing expanded to many different art forms including plays, film and television scripts, and even cookbooks. Over the course of her career, she received many awards, including three Grammys for her spoken word albums, and she received more than 50 honorary degrees.

Angelou died on May 28, 2014 in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the age of 86.

View Maya Angelou’s Geni Profile

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