|Maya Angelou Quick Info|
|Height||5 ft 5 in|
|Date of Birth||April 4, 1928|
Maya Angelou was an American multi-faceted personality who defied multiple pitfalls and atrocities to become one of the most revered black female laureates in the history of literature. She knew that the world needed love and an exposure to reality which she delivered through her work. Dr. Maya Angelou, as she preferred to be called, was a staunch supporter of Civil Rights and worked rigorously for the upliftment of the African-Americans. She was an iconoclast who coped rape during her early years and flowered as one of the most influential figures of the 20-21st century. She, indeed, was a Phenomenal Woman.
Marguerite Annie Johnson
Dr. Maya Angelou, Rita
Angelou was born on April 4, 1928.
The literary phenomenon kicked the bucket on May 28, 2014 (aged 86) at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as she was suffering from multiple health issues.
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Maya Angelou owned 2 homes – one in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and another called the “lordly brownstone” in Harlem.
Angelou graduated from the California Labor School. Then she went to the George Washington High School in San Francisco, California.
She never went to college but received over 50 honorary degrees during her lifespan.
The vocations which contributed majorly to her influential figure included her faculty as a writer, poetess, and civil rights activist.
She had also worked as a fry cook, sex worker, nightclub performer, actor, dancer, memoirist, professor, producer, coordinator, journalist, cast member of an opera, and a streetcar conductor.
- Father – Bailey Johnson (Doorman and Navy Dietitian)
- Mother – Vivian (Baxter) Johnson (Nurse and Card Dealer)
- Siblings – Bailey Johnson Jr. (Older Brother)
- Others – Annie Henderson (Paternal Grandmother), William Johnson (Paternal Grandfather), Marguerite Baxter (Maternal Grandmother), Thomas Baxter (Maternal Grandfather), Mary Lee (Maternal Great-Grandmother)
Helen Brann (Literary Agent)
- Autobiographical Fiction (Literary Genre)
- Calypso (Musical Genre)
5 ft 5 in or 165 cm
68 kg or 150 lbs
Boyfriend / Girlfriend / Spouse
Maya Angelou dated –
- Tosh Angelos (1951-1954) – Maya married a Greek electrician, sailor, and an aspiring musician named Tosh Angelos in 1951. The relationship was condemned for its interracial status and even Maya’s mother didn’t approve of their marriage. Maya gave birth to their son, Guy. Later, the short-lived marriage ended up in a divorce in 1954.
- Vusumzi Make (1961-1962) – Vuzumzi was a South African activist and lawyer who met Maya in 1961. They soon developed a bond and Maya moved to Cairo with her son and Make. The relationship didn’t last long and dissolved the following year and Maya moved to Accra, Ghana with her son.
- Debbie Allen
- Paul du Feu (1974-1983) – Paul was a Welsh carpenter who was previously married to writer Germaine Greer. In 1974, Paul and Maya got married and she had described their relationship as a match “made in heaven” in her second book Even the Stars Look Lonesome. But, they eventually got divorced in 1983.
Race / Ethnicity
She had African-American ancestry with a probability of 1/8th Irish roots.
- Her literary genius
- A gap between her front teeth
Maya Angelou had appeared in the TV commercials for –
- Public Broadcasting System (1999)
- Union Bank of California (2013)
- Wake Forest University (2014)
Best Known For
- Being an indomitable writer and a poetess
- Her magnum opus, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, the first among her famous series of 7 autobiographies
- Voicing against racial prejudices and her contribution as a civil rights activist
Maya Angelou released her first and the only album Miss Calypso in 1957. She toured in support of her album and also performed in the nightclubs.
Angelou made her theatrical film debut in 1957 in the movie Calypso Heat Wave. She sang her own compositions in the movie.
First TV Show
Maya Angelou made her first TV show appearance on The Mike Douglas Show in 1971.
Angelou had a passion for dance which kept her in shape throughout her adulthood.
Maya Angelou Favorite Things
- Clothing Item – Uggs
- Books – Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Bible, and Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
- Fruit – Mango
- Pet – Moose
Maya Angelou Facts
- She got her name, Maya, after her brother nicknamed her so. The name is derived from “My” or “Mya Sister”.
- After her parents’ divorce, Maya’s father sent the 3-year old Maya along with her 4-year old brother to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother. The siblings traveled all alone by train without any adult supervision.
- Despite the Great Depression and World War II, Maya’s paternal grandmother made impressive profits as the general store she owned sold items of basic needs.
- Suddenly one day, her father appeared out of the blue after 4 years at her grandmother’s house and took away the children to send them back to their mother’s care in St. Louis.
- Maya was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, when she was only 8 years old.
- Later, when Maya confessed about the horrific incident to her brother, he told the family elders who eventually probably murdered the abuser 4 days after he was released from jail, after serving just 1 day in the jail as a punishment for his heinous crime.
- The murder of her abuser affected the child and Maya became mute for 5 years straight as she internalized that she was somehow responsible for the death of the man as it was her voice that killed the man.
- It was during this phase that her senses developed a great deal and she became more observant, a possessor of great memory, and lover of books and literature.
- Angelou credits her teacher, Mrs. Bertha Flowers for helping her with her speech and for introducing her to authors like William Shakespeare and Edgar Ellan Poe.
- President Barack Obama‘s sister was named after Angelou.
- The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials bestowed Angelou with a lifetime achievement award in 2014 for being the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She took the job merely because she liked the uniform.
- Despite having been sent away by her mom at the age of 3, Maya loved her mom because she was a kind and helpful lady. Angelou had addressed their relationship in her 7th biography Mom & Me & Mom.
- During the Civil Rights Movement, Angelou worked with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
- Unfortunately, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Maya’s 40th birth anniversary.
- She became the second poet, after Robert Frost, to recite at the presidential inauguration as she recited at Bill Clinton‘s Presidential inauguration in 1993.
- Maya gave birth to her only child when she was just 17.
- She always confessed in interviews that she had been married many times but never revealed the exact number of marriages for the fear of appearing silly.
- When her marriage with Tosh Angelou collapsed, she used to perform as a professional dancer at clubs in San Francisco and went by her maiden name ‘Marguerite Johnson’ or ‘Rita’. It was only after her supporters’ and friends’ suggestions that she changed her name to a more distinct ‘Maya Angelou’, taking the last name from her ex-husband’s name.
- Her part in an off-Broadway review paved her way for her first film appearance in the movie Calypso Heat Wave.
- Angelou became the first black female screenplay writer after the production of Georgia, Georgia in 1972.
- In her 2nd autobiography Gather Together in My Name, she had mentioned that she had performed some odd jobs like working as a sex worker, a prostitute, and a madame for lesb*ans.
- Maya was an avant-garde who spoke about her past fearlessly and with pride because even after all the atrocities she faced, she believed that she never wronged anyone.
- She wanted to portray life to her readers the way it happened to her, raw and with various challenges, and not something wrapped in comfort. Her stories were realistic and motivating.
- Angelou became close friends with Oprah Winfrey and saw in her the daughter she has always wanted.
- She loved cooking and hosting parties and hosted various celebrations every year.
- Her love for food found its way into her writing when she authored her first cookbook Hallelujah! The Welcome Table in 2004.
- She received many honors throughout her lifetime including the Presidential Medal Of Freedom which was presented to her by Barack Obama in 2011.
- Visit her official website @ mayaangelou.com.
Featured Image by Adria Richards / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0