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Angelou, Maya 1928- (Dr. Maya Angelou)

Angelou, Maya 1928- (Dr. Maya Angelou)

PERSONAL

Original name, Marguerite (some sources cite Marguerita) Annie Johnson; surname is pronounced "an-ge-loo"; born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Bailey (a doorkeeper and dietitian) and Vivian (a nurse and realtor; maiden name, Baxter) Johnson; married Enistasious "Tosh" Angelou (some sources cite surname as Angelos), 1950 (divorced, c. 1952); married Vusumzi Make (a lawyer and activist; divorced, 1963); married Paul Du Feu, December, 1973 (divorced, c. 1981); children: Clyde Bailey "Guy" Johnson (a writer). Education: Attended public schools in Arkansas and California; studied dance with Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, and Ann Halprin; studied drama with Frank Silvera and Gene Frankel; studied music privately.

Addresses:

Agent—Helen Brann Agency, 94 Curtis Rd., CT 06752; Lordly and Dame, 51 Church St., Boston, MA 02116.

Career:

Writer, actress, singer, dancer, director, and producer. Habima Theatre, Tel Aviv, Israel, teacher of modern dance, c. 1955; Arab Observer (English-language newspaper), Cairo, Egypt, associate editor, 1961-62; University of Ghana, Institute of African Studies, assistant administrator of School of Music and Drama, 1963-66; University of California, Los Angeles, lecturer, 1966; University of Kansas, Lawrence, writer in residence, 1970; Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, distinguished visiting professor, 1974; California State University, Sacramento, distinguished visiting professor, 1974; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, distinguished visiting professor, 1974, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of American Studies (lifetime appointment), 1981; American Film Institute, member of the faculty, beginning c. 1978. Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation, writer, 1963-65; African Review, Accra, Ghana, features editor, 1964-66; writer for the Ghanian Times, Accra, Ghana; Rome Opera House, worked as a teacher of modern dance; worked as a nightclub performer; worked as streetcar conductor in San Francisco, CA; worked as a cook. American Council for the Arts, Nancy Hanks Lecturer, 1990. Southern Christian Leadership Conference, northern coordinator, 1959-60; Women Prison's Association, member of the advisory board; American Revolution Bicentennial Council, member, 1975-76; Institute for the Study of Human Systems, Zermatt, Switzerland, panelist, 1990; UNICEF, named national ambassador, 1996; member of the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year; chair of Horatio Alger Awards Dinner, 1993; volunteer for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and presenter of its awards, 2000. Appeared in television commercials for American Public Television. Recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, Washington, DC, 1993; also recited her poetry at the Million Man March, Washington, DC, 1995; produced a line of greeting cards and trinkets for Hallmark, 2002.

Member:

Directors Guild of America, Actors Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (member of the board of trustees), American Film Institute (member of the board of trustees), Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Harlem Writers Guild.

Awards, Honors:

Obie Award, c. 1961, for The Blacks; National Book Award nomination, 1970, for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Chubb fellow, Yale University, 1970; Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1972, for Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1973, for Look Away; Rockefeller Foundation scholar in Italy, 1975; Ladies Home Journal, named the woman of the year in communications, 1976, named one of the top 100 most influential women, 1983; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress, 1977, for Roots; Matrix Award, 1983; Living Legacy Award, Women's International Center, 1986; North Carolina Award in Literature, 1987; Golden Plate, American Academy of Achievement, 1990; Langston Hughes Award, City College of New York, 1991; Maya Angelou CPT and Family Center was dedicated by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, London, 1991; Horatio Alger Award, 1992; Crystal Award, Women in Film, 1992; named woman of the year, Essence, and distinguished woman of North Carolina, both 1992; Grammy Award, best spoken-word or non-traditional album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1994, for On the Pulse of Morning; medal of distinction, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1994; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1996, for How to Make an American Quilt; Image Award, best nonfiction literary work, NAACP, for Even the Stars Look Lonesome, 1998; Audience Choice Award, Chicago International Film Festival, 1998, and Black Film Award nomination, best director, Acapulco Black Film Festival, 1999, both for Down in the Delta; National Medal of the Arts, 2000; Aaron Davis Hall Harlem Renaissance Award, 2001; Grammy Award, best spoken word album, 2002 for A Song Flung Up to Heaven; Golden Eagle Award for Three Way Choice: Afro-American in the Arts; several honorary degrees, including degrees from Smith College and Mills College, both 1975, Lawrence University, 1976, and Wake Forest University, 1977.

CREDITS

Stage Appearances:

Calypso Heatwave, Off-Broadway production, 1957.

Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), Village Gate Theatre, New York City, 1960.

Queen, The Blacks (also known as The Blacks: A Clown Show), St. Mark's Playhouse, New York City, 1961, then in Venice, Italy, and Berlin, West Germany (now Germany), both 1964.

Mother Courage and Her Children, University of Ghana, 1964.

Medea, Theatre of Being, Hollywood, CA, 1966.

Elizabeth Keckley, Look Away, Playhouse Theatre, New York City, 1973.

Major Tours:

Porgy and Bess, U.S. Department of State tour, European and African cities, 1954-55.

Stage Work:

Producer, Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), Village Gate Theatre, New York City, 1960.

Director, And Still I Rise, Ensemble Theatre, Oakland, CA, 1976.

Director, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, London, 1988.

Film Appearances:

Singer from Trinidad, Calypso Heat Wave, Columbia, 1957.

(Uncredited) Dancer, Porgy and Bess, Columbia, 1959.

Aunt June, Poetic Justice, Columbia, 1993.

Anna, How to Make an American Quilt (also known as American Quilt), Universal, 1995.

Narrator, The Journey of August King, Miramax, 1995.

Angelou on Burns (documentary), Taylored Productions, 1996.

Narrator, Perfect Moment (documentary), 1996.

Herself, Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future (documentary), Third World Newsreel, 1999.

Herself, The Unfinished Journey (short documentary film), 1999.

Title role, Phenomenal Woman, 2001.

Herself, Sisters in Cinema, 2003.

Herself, The Ballad of Greenwich Village, 2005.

May, Medea's Family Reunion (also known as Tyler Perry's "Medea's Family Reunion" and Tyler Perry's "Medea's Family Reunion: The Movie"), 2006.

Narrator, As Seen Through These Eyes, 2008.

Film Director:

All Day Long, American Film Institute, 1974.

Down in the Delta, Miramax, 1998.

Television Appearances; Series:

Host, Assignment America, 1975.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Nyo Boto, Roots, ABC, 1977.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Lelia Mae, "There Are No Children Here," ABC Theatre, ABC, 1993.

Conjure woman, The Runaway, CBS, 2000.

We Are Not Vanishing, Showtime, 2002.

Television Appearances; Specials:

The Richard Pryor Special?, NBC, 1977.

The Richard Pryor Special, NBC, 1982.

Moyers: Facing Evil (also known as Facing Evil), PBS, 1988.

Presenter, "Trying to Make It Home," Byline, 1988.

"James Baldwin: The Price of a Ticket," American Masters, PBS, 1989.

"The R.A.C.E." (also known as "The Race and Racism"), NBC News Special, NBC, 1989.

The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1990.

The Essence Awards, CBS, 1992.

Host, Who Cares about Kids?, PBS, 1992.

The Alistair Cooke Salute, PBS, 1992.

Kindred Spirits: Contemporary African-American Artists, PBS, 1992.

Herself, Malcolm X: The Real Story (also known as The Real Malcolm X), CBS, 1992.

Maya Angelou: Rainbow in the Clouds (also known as Discovering Faith with Maya Angelou), PBS, 1992.

The Changing of the Guard—A Pre-Inaugural Special, PBS, 1993.

The 12 Most Fascinating People of 1993, ABC, 1993.

One Child, One Dream: The Horatio Alger Awards, NBC, 1993.

The Great Depression, 1993.

Host, The 4th Annual Environmental Media Awards, TBS, 1994.

Presenter, The Essence Awards, Fox, 1994.

The Horatio Alger Awards, NBC, 1994.

Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World, 1994.

Host, The Dvorak Concert from Prague—A Celebration (also known as Dvorak Gala from Prague), PBS, 1994.

Herself, A Century of Women (also known as A Family of Women), TBS, 1994.

Concert of the Americas (also known as The Kennedy Center Presents), PBS, 1994.

Generation X: Black Voices of Reason, Rage, and Responsibility (also known as Congressional Black Caucus Town Meeting and Generation X: Black Voices of Reason, Black Voices of Rage), syndicated, 1994.

"Malcolm X: Make It Plain," The American Experience, PBS, 1994.

The Gospel According to Jesus, Cinemax, 1995.

Presenter, The Horatio Alger Awards, CBS, 1995.

Maya Angelou Talking with David Frost, PBS, 1995.

Narrator, Elmo Saves Christmas, PBS, 1996.

Voice, How Do You Spell God?, HBO, 1996.

The Ark of the Spirit with Avery Brooks, TBS, 1996.

Images of Life: Photographs That Changed the World, CBS, 1996.

Herself, American Dreamers, TNT, 1996.

Herself, Porgy and Bess: An American Voice, PBS, 1998.

Quincy Jones—The First 50 Years, ABC, 1998.

Intimate Portrait: Maya Angelou, Lifetime, 1998.

A Century of Women, CNN, 1998.

Presenter, The 30th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1999.

Narrator, Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports, HBO, 1999.

The 1999 Special Olympics—World Summer Games, ABC, 1999.

The Great American History Quiz: Pursuit of Happiness, History Channel, 2000.

The Great American History Quiz: Heroes and Villains, History Channel, 2000.

Voice of Fairy Godmother, "Rip Van Winkle": An Animated Special from "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series, HBO, 2000.

Jessye Norman Sings for the Healing of AIDS, PBS, 2000.

"Quincy Jones: In the Pocket," American Masters, PBS, 2001.

America Responds: A National Conversation, PBS, 2001.

America Beyond the Color Line with Henry Louis Gates Jr., KCET, 2002.

Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television, TV Land, 2002.

"Roots": Celebrating 25 Years (also known as "Roots"—Celebrating 25 Years: The Saga of an American Classic), NBC, 2002.

Host, CMT: 20 Greatest Songs of Faith, Country Music Television, 2005.

Out of Africa: Heroes and Icons, BBC, 2005.

Celebrate! Christmas with Maya Angelou, Hallmark Channel, 2005.

The 2nd Annual Quill Awards, NBC, 2006.

Oprah Winfrey's Legends' Ball, ABC, 2006.

An Evening of Stars: Tribute to Stevie Wonder, 2006.

African American Lives 2, PBS, 2007.

Joe Louis: America's Hero Betrayed, HBO, 2008.

We Have a Dream, 2008.

Also appeared as host, Maya Angelou's America: A Journey of the Heart.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1971, 1972.

Narrator, "The Slave Coast," Black African Heritage, CBS, 1972.

Dinah! (also known as Dinah! & Friends), 1977.

Creativity with Bill Moyers, 1982.

Voice of herself, "Arthur's Eyes," Reading Rainbow, PBS, 1983.

"Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 1991.

The Arsenio Hall Show, 1994.

Clarice Mitchell, "Reunion," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1995.

"Maya Angelou," Lauren Hutton and, 1995.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1996.

Herself, "Eight and a Half Months," The Gregory Hines Show, CBS, 1997.

The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 1997, 2004.

Narrator, "Madagascar: A World Apart," The Living Edens, PBS, 1998.

"Fired Up," Moesha, UPN, 1999.

Herself, "Rosita Takes Pictures with Her Camera," Sesame Street (also known as Open Sesame, Sesame Street Unpaved, and The New Sesame Street), PBS, 1999.

"The Films of John Singleton," The Directors, 1999.

"Phyllis Diller: First Lady of Laughter," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

"Oprah Winfrey: Heart of the Matter," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

"Billie Holliday: Sensational Lady," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2004, 2005.

Larry King Live, CNN, 2005.

(As Dr. Maya Angelou) Breakfast, BBC, 2005.

(As Dr. Maya Angelou) The Heaven and Earth Show (also known as Heaven and Earth with Gloria Hunniford), BBC, 2005.

"Dave Chappelle & Maya Angelou," Iconoclasts, Sundance, 2006.

Television Producer; Series:

Blacks, Blues, Black, National Educational Television (now PBS), 1968.

Television Work; Movies:

Producer, Sister, Sister, 1982.

Television Work; Specials:

Worked as producer, Three Way Choice: Afro-American in the Arts.

Television Work; Episodic:

"The Tapestry/Circles," Visions, 1976.

RECORDINGS

Albums:

Miss Calypso (songs), Liberty Records, 1957.

Women in Business, University of Wisconsin, 1981.

Taped Readings:

The Poetry of Maya Angelou, GWP Records, 1969.

An Evening with Maya Angelou, Pacific Tape Library, 1975.

Maya Angelou Reading from Her Work, Archive of Recorded Poetry, Library of Congress, 1984.

On the Pulse of Morning, 1994.

Black Pearls: The Poetry of Maya Angelou, Rhino, 1998.

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes, Books on Tape, 2004.

Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer, Books on Tape, 2006.

Videos:

Creativity with Bill Moyers (also known as Maya Angelou), c. 1984.

WRITINGS

Stage Plays:

(With Godfrey Cambridge) Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), Village Gate Theatre, New York City, 1960.

The Clawing Within, 1966.

The Least of These (two-act), Los Angeles production, 1966.

Adjoa Amissah (two-act), 1967.

(Adaptor) Sophocles, Ajax (two-act), Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1973-74.

Encounters, Center Theater Group, Mark Taper Forum, 1973.

And Still I Rise (based on her poetry), Ensemble Theatre, Oakland, CA, 1976.

Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, London, 1988.

Screenplays:

Georgia, Georgia, Cinerama, 1972.

All Day Long, American Film Institute, 1974.

And Still I Rise (documentary; adapted from her poem), England, 1993.

Film Music:

(With Quincy Jones) Song, "You Put It on Me," For Love of Ivy, Cinerama, 1968.

Film score and song, "I Can Call Down Rain," Georgia, Georgia, Cinerama, 1972.

Perfect Moment (documentary), 1996.

Poetry Used in Films:

Poems "Alone, "A Conceit," "In a Time," "A Kind of Love, Some Say," and "Phenomenal Woman," Poetic Justice, Columbia, 1993.

Television Series:

Blacks, Blues, Black, National Educational Television (now PBS), 1968.

Assignment America, 1975.

Television Miniseries:

(With others) Brewster Place, ABC, 1990.

Television Movies:

(With Leona Thuna and Ralph B. Woolsey) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (based on her autobiography), CBS, 1979.

(With John Berry) Sister, Sister, NBC, 1982.

Television Specials:

The Inheritors, 1976.

The Legacy, 1976.

"Trying to Make It Home," Byline, 1988.

Kindred Spirits: Contemporary African-American Artists, PBS, 1992.

Maya Angelou: Rainbow in the Clouds (also known as Discovering Faith with Maya Angelou), PBS, 1992.

Who Cares about Kids?, PBS, 1992.

How Do You Spell God?, HBO, 1996.

Also wrote Maya Angelou's America: A Journey of the Heart; Three Way Choice: Afro-American in the Arts and To the Contrary, PBS.

Autobiographies:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Random House (New York City), 1970.

Gather Together in My Name, Random House, 1974.

Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas, Random House, 1976.

The Heart of a Woman, Random House, 1981.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House, 1986.

Selections from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, Literacy Volunteers of New York City, 1989.

(Lyricist with Alistair Beaton) King: A Musical Testimony (stage performance; also known as King), book by Lonne Elder III, music by Richard Blackford, London, 1990.

A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Random House, 2002.

To Have the Heart of Hope, Random House, 2008.

Poetry Collections:

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, Random House (New York City), 1971.

Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, Random House, 1975.

And Still I Rise, Random House, c. 1978.

Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?, Random House, 1983.

Poems: Maya Angelou, four volumes, Bantam (New York City), 1986.

Now Sheba Sings the Song, illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial (New York City), 1987.

I Shall Not Be Moved, Random House, 1990.

On the Pulse of Morning, Random House, 1993.

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Random House, 1994.

Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, Random House, 1994.

A Brave and Startling Truth, Random House, 1995.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem, Random House, 2005.

Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me, Random House, 2006.

Complete Collected Poems, Virago Press, 2008.

Also author of The True Believers, with Abbey Lincoln.

Writings for Children:

Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship (juvenile fiction), illustrated by Etienne Delessert, Redpath Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1986.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me (poems for children), edited by Sara Jane Boyers, illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York City), 1993.

(With others) Soul Looks Back in Wonder (juvenile anthology), illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial (New York City), 1993.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me, photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke, C. N. Potter (New York City), 1994.

Kofi and His Magic, photographs by Courtney-Clarke, C. N. Potter, 1996.

Angelina of Italy, Random House, 2004.

Nonfiction:

Lessons in Living (essays), Random House (New York City), 1993.

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (meditations), Random House, 1993.

(With Rosamund Grant) Caribbean and African Cooking, Interlink Publishing Group (New York City), 1997.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Random House, 1997.

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime Memories with Recipes (autobiography/cookbook), Random House, 2004.

Nonfiction; As Contributor:

Andrew Buchwalter, editor, Culture and Democracy: Social and Ethical Issues in Public Support for the Arts and Humanities, Westview (Boulder, CO), 1992.

Gerald Early, editor, Speech and Power: The African-American Essay and Its Cultural Content from Polemics to Pulpit, Ecco (Hopewell, NJ), 1992.

David Lazar, editor, Conversations with M. F. K. Fisher, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1992.

John Singleton and Veronica Chambers, Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style, foreword by Spike Lee, Delta (New York City), 1993.

Charlie Reilly, editor, Conversations with Amiri Baraka, University Press of Mississippi, 1994.

(And coeditor) Jontyle Theresa Robinson, editor, Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists, Rizzoli International Publications (New York City), 1996.

Author of Forewords:

(Author of introduction) Elliot Schneider, The Women of the Regent Hotel: The Unheard Voices of the Homeless in Poems, Child Development Center of the Jewish Board of Family and Child Services (New York City), 1987.

Patricia Bell-Scott, editor, Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers and Daughters, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1991.

Margaret Courtney-Clarke, African Canvas: The Art of West African Women, Rizzoli International (New York City), 1991.

Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on the Road, Harper-Collins, 1991.

Richard A. Long, African Americans: A Portrait, Crescent Books (New York City), 1993.

Interviews:

Jeffrey M. Elliot, editor, Conversations with Maya Angelou, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1989.

Dannye Romine Powell, Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers, J. F. Blair (Winston-Salem, NC), 1994.

Kelvin Shawn Sealey, editor, Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1997.

Interviews of Angelou have also appeared in periodicals, including the Paris Review.

Anthologies:

Maya Angelou Omnibus, Virago (London), 1991.

Other Writings:

Making Magic in the World, 1988.

Author of short stories, including "Reunion"; author of the short story collection All Day Long. Contributor of articles, short stories, and poems to periodicals, including Black Scholar, Chicago Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Ebony, Essence, Harper's Bazaar, Life, Mademoiselle, Millimeter, Ms., New York Times, National Geographic, and Redbook. Songwriter for B. B. King.

ADAPTATIONS

The television movie America's Dream, released by HBO in 1996, was based on various works, including Angelou's short story "Reunion."

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Bloom, Harold, editor, Maya Angelou, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.

Bloom, Harold, editor, Maya Angelou: Why the Caged Bird Sings, Chelsea House (New York City), 1995.

Braxton, Joanne M., Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook, Oxford University Press (New York City), 1998.

Challener, Daniel D., Stories of Resilience in Childhood: The Narratives of Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Richard Rodrigues, John Edgar Wideman, and Tobais Wolff, Garland Publishing (New York City), 1997.

Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography Supplement: Modern Writers, 1900-1998, Gale, 1998.

Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 42, Gale, 1994.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 12, 1980, pp. 9-10; Volume 35, 1985, pp. 29-33.

Contemporary Poets, 7th ed., St. James Press, 2001.

Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press, 1999.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, Gale, 1985, pp. 3-12.

Elliot, Jeffrey M., editor, Conversations with Maya Angelou, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1989.

Georgoudaki, Ekaterini, Race, Gender, and Class Perspectives in the Works of Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, and Audre Lorde, Aristotle University of the Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki, Greece), 1991.

Hagen, Lyman B., Heart of a Woman, Mind of a Writer, and Soul of a Poet: A Critical Analysis of the Writings of Maya Angelou, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1996.

Kallen, Stuart A., Maya Angelou: Woman of Words, Deeds, and Dreams, Abdo and Daughters (Edina, MN), 1993.

King, Sarah E., Maya Angelou: Greeting the Morning, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1994.

Lisandrelli, Elaine Slivinski, Maya Angelou: More Than a Poet, Enslow Publishers (Springfield, NJ), 1996.

Long, Richard A., African Americans: A Portrait, foreword by Angelou, Crescent Books (New York City), 1993.

Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2nd ed., Gale Group, 2002.

Major 20th-Century Writers, Gale, 1991, pp. 100-102.

McPherson, Dolly Aimee, Order out of Chaos: The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou, Peter Lang (New York City), 1990.

Notable Black American Women, Book 1, Gale Research, 1992.

Pettit, Jayne, Maya Angelou: Journey of the Heart, Lodestar Books (New York City), 1996.

Powell, Dannye Romine, Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers, J. F. Blair (Winston-Salem, NC), 1994.

Sealey, Kelvin Shawn, editor, Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1997.

Shapiro, Miles, Maya Angelou, introductory essay by Coretta Scott King, Chelsea House (New York City), 1994.

Shuker, Nancy, Maya Angelou, Silver Burdett Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1990.

Singleton, John and Veronica Chambers, Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style, foreword by Spike Lee, Delta, 1993.

Spain, Valerie, Meet Maya Angelou, Random House (New York City), 1994.

Tate, Claudia, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum (New York City), 1983.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 13th edition, Gale, 2000.

Williams, Mary E., editor, Readings on Maya Angelou, Greenhaven Press (San Diego, CA), 1997.

Women Filmmakers and Their Films, St. James Press, 1998.

Periodicals:

Black Scholar, summer, 1982.

Black World, July, 1975.

Detroit Free Press, May 9, 1986.

Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1983.

New Statesman, September 15, 1989, p. 37.

New York Times, January 20, 1993.

Paris Review, fall, 1990, pp. 145-167.

People Weekly, March 8, 1982, p. 92.

Smithsonian, April, 2003, p. 96; November, 2005, p. 84.

Times (London), September 29, 1986.

Village Voice, July 11, 1974; October 28, 1981.

Vogue, September, 1982, p. 416.

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"Angelou, Maya 1928- (Dr. Maya Angelou)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Angelou, Maya 1928- (Dr. Maya Angelou)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/angelou-maya-1928-dr-maya-angelou

"Angelou, Maya 1928- (Dr. Maya Angelou)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/angelou-maya-1928-dr-maya-angelou

Angelou, Maya 1928–

Maya Angelou 1928

Author, performing artist

Autobiographical Work Recalls Painful Memories

Launched Performing Career

Explored African Sojourn

Articulated the Struggle of Black Women

Selected writings

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

The life experiences of the richly talented Maya Angelouauthor, poet, actress, singer, dancer, playwright, director, producerare the cornerstone of her most acclaimed work, a multi-volume autobiography that traces the foundations of her identity as a twentieth-century American black woman. Beginning with the best-selling Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelous autobiographical books chart her beginnings in rural segregated Arkansas and urban St. Louis, her turbulent adolescence in California, and through her adult triumphs as a performing artist and writer, her work in the Civil Rights Movement, and her travels to Africa. One of the geniuses of Afro-American serial autobiography, according to Houston A. Baker in the New York Times Book Review, Angelou has been praised for the rich and insightful prose of her narratives and for offering what many observers feel is an indispensable record of black experience. Author James Baldwin wrote on the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: This testimony from a Black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts and lives of all Black men and women.

Born in Long Beach, California, Angelou was sent at the age of three to live with her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, an event that served as the starting point for Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The book depicts Angelous early years in Stamps, where her grandmother ran the towns only black-owned general store, and is a revealing portrait of the customs and harsh circumstances of black life in the segregated South. Economic hardship, murderous hate, and ingrained denigration were part of daily life in Stamps, and Angelou translates their impact on her early years. If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat, she wrote in the book. It is an unnecessary insult.

Autobiographical Work Recalls Painful Memories

Angelou also spent part of her youth in St. Louis with her mothera glamorous and dynamic figure who occasionally worked as a nightclub performer. The book concludes with Angelous early adolescent years in California and the birth of her illegitimate son, Guy. Much of Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is grim-particularly Angelous rape at the age of eight-yet it

At a Glance

Born Marguerite Johnson, April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Bailey & Vivian (Baxter) Johnson; married Tosh Angelos (divorced c. 1952); married Paul Du Feu, Dec. 1973 (divorced); children: Guy Johnson. Education: Attended public schs.in Ark. & Calif.; studied dance with Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, & Ann Halprin; studied drama with Frank Silvera & Gene Frankel.

Toured with U.S. State Deptproduction of Porgy & Bess, 1954-55; worked as a nightclub performer in CA, HI, and NYC. performed in, produced, & directed Cabaret for Freedom, NYC, 1960; northern coordinator of SCLC c. 1960-61;appeared Off-Broadway at St. Marks Playhouse in The Blacks, 1961; assoc. ed., Arab Observer (English-language newsweekly), Cairo, Egypt, 1961-62; asst. admin., Sch of Music & Dance, Univ. of Ghana, Accra, 1963-66; feature ed., African Review, & writer for Ghantan Times & Radio Ghana c.1964-66; lecturer, UCLA, 1966; writer in residence, Univ. of KS, 1970;distinguished visiting prof: Wake Forest Univ., Wichita St. Univ., & CAL State, Sacramento, all 1974; directed film All Day Long, 1974;appt.by Pres. Ford to Amer.Rev.Bicentennial Council, 1975; dir.own play And Still I Rise, 1976; lifetime appt.as Reynolds Prof.of Amer.Studies, Wake Forest Univ., 1981producer, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, 1988. Appt.by Pres.Carter to Comm.of Intl.Womens Year. Taught modern dance at Rome Opera House & Hambina Theatre, Tel Aviv, Israel; Delivered poem at the inauguration of Près. Clinton, 1993; Delivered poem at the U.N. 50th Birthday Bash, 1995; Wrote lyrics to the musical King, 1997.

Selected memberships: Amer. Fed. of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA), Dir. Guild of Amer., Actors Equity, Harlem Writers Guild, Amer. Film Inst (trustee)

Selected awards: Natl.Book Award nomination, 1970, for Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Yale fellowship, 1970; Golden Eagle Award for documentary, 1977, for Afro-American in the Arts; selected hon. degrees:Smith Coll., Ohio St. Univ., Atlanta Univ., Claremont Coll. Grad. School, Wheaton Coll., Columbia Coll.,& Wake Forest Univ.; Spingam Medal, 1993; Medal of Distinction from the Univ. of Hawaii Bd. of Regents, 1994.

Addresses: HomeSonoma, CA. Officec/o Dave La Camera Lordly & Dame Inc., 51 Church St., Boston, MA 02116.

marks her distinct ability to recollect personal truth through insightful and powerful images, sights, and language. Angelou earned high marks from critics who praised her narrative skills and eloquent prose. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times called Know Why the Caged Bird Sings a carefully wrought, simultaneously touching and comic memoir...[the] beauty [of which] is not in the story but in the telling. Sidonie Ann Smith wrote in the Southern Humanities Review that Angelous genius as a writer is her ability to recapture the texture of the way of life in the texture of its idioms, its idiosyncratic vocabulary and especially in its process of image-making.... That [Angelou] chooses to recreate the past in its own sounds suggests to the reader that she accepts the past and recognizes its beauty and its ugliness, its assets and its liabilities, its strength and its weakness.... Ultimately Maya Angelous style testifies to her reaffirmation of self-acceptance, [which] she achieves within the pattern of the autobiography.

Angelous next volume of autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, begins with Angelou leaving her mothers home in California at the age of seventeen to forge an independent life with her infant son. The book describes the chaotic years that follow, during which Angelou worked a variety of jobscook, waitress, brothel madamand also suffered a brief drug addiction. Selwyn R. Cudjoe in Black Women Writers (1950-1980) noted that the book describes how rural dignity gives way to the alienation and destruction of urban life.... The violation which began in Caged Bird takes on a much sharper focus in Gather Together.... The author is still concerned with the question of what it means to be Black and female in America, but her development is ... subjected to certain social forces which assault the black woman with unusual intensity. Critics again praised Angelous skillful prose, but also noted that the book lacked a certain cohesiveness. Lynn Sukenick in the Village Voice called the book sculpted, concise, rich with flavor and surprises, exuding a natural confidence and command. Sukenick added, however, that in the tone of the book ... [Angelous] refusal to let her earlier self get off easy, and the self-mockery which is her means to honesty, finally becomes in itself a glossing over.... It eventually becomes a tic and a substitute for a deeper look. Sondra ONeale similarly commented in Black Women Writers that the writing flows and shimmers with beauty; only the rigorous, coherent and meaningful organization of experience is missing.

Launched Performing Career

In the 1950s Angelou embarked upon a career as a stage performer, working as an actress, singer, and dancer. Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas recounts Angelous transition from late adolescence to early adulthood, when she began to define herself as a performing artist. She toured Europe with a U.S. State Department production of the black opera Porgy and Bess in the mid 1950s, a period that became a turning point in her life. While with the theater company Angelou began to link the turmoil of her past with her identity as a black adult, and, as Cudjoe commented, the book documents the personal triumph of [a] remarkable black woman. Cudjoe wrote: The pride which she takes in her companys professionalism, their discipline onstage, and the wellspring of spirituality that the opera emoted, all seem to conduce toward an organic harmony of her personal history as it intertwined with the social history of her people.

In The Heart of a Woman Angelou covers the late 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which black artists in the United States were increasingly addressing racial abuse and black liberation. In the book Angelou herself makes a decision to move away from show business in order to, as she describes it, take on the responsibility of making [people] think. [It] was the time to demonstrate my own seriousness. She joined a group called the Harlem Writers Guild and in 1960 co-wrote the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom, which opened in New York City. Later that year she was asked by Martin Luther King, Jr., to become northern coordinator for the then-fledgling civil rights organization he had helped found, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Heart of a Woman concludes with Angelou and her son, Guy, moving to Africa, where she first worked for an English-language newsweekly in Cairo, and then at the University of Ghana. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Lynn Z. Bloom called The Heart of a Woman a particularly inspired book. Angelous enlarged focus and clear vision transcend the particulars, Bloom wrote, and like/ Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the book presents a fascinating universality of perspective and psychological depth.

Explored African Sojourn

Angelou more fully explored her Africa experience in her fifth book, All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes, of which a reviewer in Time noted that the author meditates on the search for historical and spiritual roots. According to Baker in the New York Times Book Review, one of the interesting aspects that Angelou explores is her realization that Africa is a homeland that refuses to become home. Though independence and prosperity make Ghana a festival in black, there is no point of connection between Miss Angelou and what she calls the soul of Africa. Barbara T. Christian likewise observed in the Chicago Tribune Book World that Angelous sojourn in Africa strengthens her bonds to her ancestral home even as she concretely experiences her distinctiveness as an Afro-American. Wanda Cole-man in the Los Angeles Times Book Review called All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes an important document drawing more much-needed attention to the hidden history of a people both African and American.

Commenting on Angelous autobiographical writings, ONeale wrote that one of the authors overall achievements is the elevation of the black female in literature. One who has made her life her message and whose message to all aspiring Black women is the reconstruction of her experiential self, is Maya Angelou. With the wide public and critical reception of/ Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in the early seventies, Angelou bridged the gap between life and art, a step that is essential if Black women are to be deservedly credited with the mammoth and creative feat of noneffacing survival. Cudjoe similarly commented that Angelous autobiographies rescue not only her personal history, but the collective history of all black women: It is in response to these specific concerns that Maya Angelou offered her autobiographical statements, presenting a powerful, authentic and profound signification of the condition of Afro-American womanhood in her quest for understanding and love rather than for bitterness and despair. Her work is a triumph in the articulation of truth in simple, forthright terms.

Articulated the Struggle of Black Women

Angelou commented to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work on the special importance of images for black women. Image making is very important for every human being. It is especially important for black American women in that we are, by being black, a minority in the United States, and by being female, the less powerful of the genders.... If we look out of our eyes at the immediate world around us, we see whites and males in dominant roles. We need to see our mothers, aunts, our sisters, and grandmothers. Angelou also described the awareness and responsibility she feels in providing images for black women: In one way, it means all the work, all the loneliness and discipline my work exacts, demands, is not in vain. It also means, in a more atavistic, absolutely internal way, that I can never die. Its like living through children. So when I approach a piece of work, that is in my approach, whether its a poem that might appear frivolous or is a serious piece. In my approach I take as fact that my work will be carried on.

In addition to her books of autobiography, Angelou has written several volumes of poetry that further explore the South, racial confrontation, and the triumph of black people against overwhelming odds. According to Tate, Angelous poems are characterized by a spontaneous joyfulness and an indomitable spirit to survive. Among her many accomplishments, Angelou wrote the screenplay and score for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia, and in 1979 penned the screen adaptation of/ Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She has made numerous television appearances, including her 1977 role in the landmark television movie, Roots, and as a guest on many talk shows.

Maya Angelous writings and speeches which stress the hopeful innocence of children has earned her wide acclaim and many fans. Such devoted enthusiasts include Oprah Winfrey and President Bill Clinton, who invited Angelou to deliver a poem at his inauguration in 1993. Angelou became the first African American to read a poem at a presidential inauguration. The poem, On the Pulse of Morning, electrified the audience and was published in a hardcover edition of Angelous poetry.

Because of her moving literary works and devotion to the power of expression, Maya Angelou was awarded the NAACPs Spingarn Medal in 1993 and the first Medal of Distinction from the University of Hawaii Board of Regents in 1994.

Angelou, with her booming laughter and deep rhythmic voice, has always been a symbol of strength and leadership for the plight of women and the underprivileged. She was named keynote speaker for the Chicago Foundation for Women in 1994. In September of 1996, Angelou and Camille Cosby joined to help African American women chart new directions in their lives with a $30 million dollar fund raising campaign for the National Council of Negro Women.

In 1995, Angelou starred in the film How to Make an American Quilt with Winona Ryder and Ellen Burstyn. She also delivered her poem A Brave and Startling Truth at the United Nations 50th birthday bash in San Francisco. Angelou contributed short stories to the HBO program Americas Dream, which aired during Black History Month in 1996 and collaborated with musicians Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson on their 1996 release Been Found. She also wrote the lyrics to the musical King, which premiered in Washington DC on January 19, 1997 as part of the inaugural festivities for President Bill Clinton.

Fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Fanti, a language of southern Ghana, Angelou is a popular lecturer and tours throughout the United States.

Selected writings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Random House, 1970.

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water fore I Diiie, Random House, 1971.

Gather Together in My Name, Random House, 1974.

O Pray My Wings are Gonna Fit Me Well, Random House, 1975.

Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas, Random House, 1976.

And Still I Rise New York, Random House, 1978.

The Heart of a Woman, Random House, 1981

Shaker, Why Dont You Sing? Random House, 1983.

All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House, 1986.

Now Sheba Sings the Song, Dutton/Dial, 1987.

I Shall Not Be Moved, Random House, 1990

Wouldnt Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Random House, 1993.

Kofi and His Magic, Crown Publishing Group, 1996.

Plays

(With Godfrey Cambridge) Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), produced at Village Gate, New York City, 1960.

The Least of These, produced in Los Angeles, 1966.

Ajax (adaptation of Sophocless Ajax), produced at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1974.

And Still I Rise, produced in Oakland, Calif., 1976.

King, 1997.

Film and television scripts

Blacks, Blues, Black (ten television programs), National Educational Television, 1968.

Georgia, Georgia (film), Cinerama, 1972.

All Day Long, American Film Institute, 1974.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (film), 1979.

Sister, Sister, NBC-TV, 1982.

Three-Way Choice, CBS-TV.

How to Make an American Quilt, (film), 1995.

Also author of the fiction work Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship, Redpath Press, 1986. Contributor of articles, short stories, and poems to periodicals, and of material to books.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Scholar, Summer 1982.

Boston Globe, January 20, 1997.

Chicago Tribune, February 11, 1996; January 12, 1997.

Chicago Tribune Book World, March 23, 1986.

Harpers Bazaar, November 1972.

Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1996.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 13, 1986; August 9, 1987.

New York Times, February 25, 1970; October 6, 1995.

New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1974; May 11, 1986.

Southern Humanities Review, Fall 1973.

Time, March 31, 1986.

USA Today, June 26, 1995; September 24, 1996.

Village Voice, July 11, 1974; October 28, 1981.

Washington Post, January 5, 1995; September 21, 1996.

Washington Post Book World, October 4, 1981; June 26, 1983; May 11, 1986.

Michael E. Mueller and David Oblender

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Angelou, Maya 1928—

Maya Angelou 1928

Author, performing artist

At a Glance

Launched Performing Career

Explored African Sojourn

Articulated the Struggle of Black Women

Selected writings

Sources

The life experiences of diversely talented Maya Angelouauthor, poet, actress, singer, dancer, playwright, director, producerare the cornerstone of her most acclaimed work, a five-volume autobiography that traces the foundations of her identity as a twentieth-century American black woman. Beginning with the best-selling / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelous autobiographical books chart her beginnings in rural segregated Arkansas and urban St. Louis, her turbulent adolescence in California, and through her adult triumphs as a performing artist and writer, her work in the Civil Rights Movement, and her travels to Africa. One of the geniuses of Afro-American serial autobiography/ according to Houston A. Baker in the New York Times Book Review, Angelou has been praised for the rich and insightful prose of her narratives and for offering what many observers feel is an indispensable record of black experience. Author James Baldwin wrote on the publication of / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: This testimony from a Black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts and lives of all Black men and women.

Born in Long Beach, California, Angelou was sent at the age of three to live with her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, an event that served as the starting point for / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The book depicts Angelous early years in Stamps, where her grandmother ran the towns only black-owned general store, and is a revealing portrait of the customs and harsh circumstances of black life in the segregated South. Economic hardship, murderous hate, and ingrained denigration were part of daily life in Stamps, and Angelou translates their impact on the formative and cognizant child. If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat, she wrote in the book. It is an unnecessary insult.

Angelou also spent part of her youth in St Louis with her mothera glamorous and dynamic figure who occasionally worked as a nightclub performer. The book concludes with Angelous early adolescent years in California and the birth of her illegitimate son. Much of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is grimparticularly Angelous rape at the age of eightyet it marks her distinct ability to recollect personal truth through insightful and powerful images, sights, and language. In so doing

At a Glance

Born Marguerite Johnson, April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Bailey and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson; married Tosh Angelou (divorced c. 1952); married Paul Du Feu, December 1973 (divorced); children: Guy Johnson. Education: Attended public schools in Arkansas and California; studied dance with Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, and Ann Halprin; studied drama with Frank Silvera and Gene Frankel.

Toured with U.S. State Department production of Porgy and Bess, 1954-55; worked as a nightclub performer in California, Hawaii, and New York City; performed in, produced, and directed Cabaret for Freedom, Village Gate theater, New York City, 1960; northern coordinator of Southern Christian Leadership Conference c. 1960-61; appeared Off-Broadway at St. Marks Playhouse in The Blacks, 1961 ; associate editor, Arab Observer (English-language newsweekly), Cairo, Egypt, 1961-62; assistant administrator, School of Music and Dance, University of Ghana, Accra, 1963-66; feature editor, African Review, and writer for Ghanian Times and Radio Ghana c. 1964-66; directed film All Day Long, 1974; directed own play And Still I Rise, 1976; lifetime appointment as Reynolds Professor of American Studies, Wake Forest University, 1981; producer, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, 1988. Taught modern dance at Rome Opera House and Hambina Theatre, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Awards: National Book Award nomination, 1970, for / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Golden Eagle Award for documentary, 1977, for Afro-American in the Arts; Matrix Award, Women in Communications, Inc., 1983; North Carolina award in literature, 1987.

Addresses: Home Sonoma, CA. Office c/o Dave La Camera Lordly and Dame Inc., 51 Church St., Boston, MA 02116.

Angelou earned high marks from critics who praised her narrative skills and eloquent prose. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times called / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings a carefully wrought, simultaneously touching and comic memoir [the] beauty [of which] is not in the story but in the telling/ Sidonie Ann Smith wrote in the Southern Humanities Review that Angelous genius as a writer is her ability to recapture the texture of the way of life in the texture of its idioms, its idiosyncratic vocabulary and especially in its process of image-making. That [Angelou] chooses to recreate the past in its own sounds suggests to the reader that she accepts the past and recognizes its beauty and its ugliness, its assets and its liabilities, its strength and its weakness. Ultimately Maya Angelous style testifies to her reaffirmation of self-acceptance, [which] she achieves within the pattern of the autobiography.

Angelous next volume of autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, begins with Angelou leaving her mothers home in California at the age of seventeen to forge an independent life with her infant son. The book describes the chaotic years that follow, during which Angelou worked a variety of jobscook, waitress, brothel madamand also suffered a brief drug addiction. Selwyn R. Cudjoe in Black Women Writers (1950-1980) noted that the book describes how rural dignity gives way to the alienation and destruction of urban life. The violation which began in Caged Bird takes on a much sharper focus in Gather Together. The author is still concerned with the question of what it means to be Black and female in America, but her development is subjected to certain social forces which assault the black woman with unusual intensity. Critics again praised Angelous skillful prose, but also noted that the book lacked a certain cohesiveness. Lynn Sukenick in the Village Voice called the book sculpted, concise, rich with flavor and surprises, exuding a natural confidence and command. Sukenick added, however, that in the tone of the book [Angelous] refusal to let her earlier self get off easy, and the self-mockery which is her means to honesty, finally becomes in itself a glossing over. It eventually becomes a tic and a substitute for a deeper look. Sondra ONeale similarly commented in Black Women Writers that the writing flows and shimmers with beauty; only the rigorous, coherent and meaningful organization of experience is missing.

Launched Performing Career

In the 1950s Angelou embarked upon a career as a stage performer, working as an actress, singer, and dancer. Singiri and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas recounts Angelous transition from late adolescence to early adulthood, when she began to define herself as a performing artist. She toured Europe with a U.S. State Department production of the black opera Porgy and Bess in the mid 1950s, a period that became a turning point in her life. While with the theater company Angelou began to link the turmoil of her past with her identity as a black adult, and, as Cudjoe commented, the book documents the personal triumph of [a] remarkable black woman/ Cudjoe wrote: The pride which she takes in her companys professionalism, their discipline onstage, and the wellspring of spirituality that the opera emoted, all seem to conduce toward an organic harmony of her personal history as it intertwined with the social history of her people.

In The Heart of a Woman Angelou covers the late 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which black artists in the United States were increasingly addressing racial abuse and black liberation. In the book Angelou herself makes a decision to move away from show business in order to, as she describes it, take on the responsibility of making [people] think. [It] was the time to demonstrate my own seriousness. She joined a group called the Harlem Writers Guild and in 1960 co-wrote the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom, which opened in New York City. Later that year she was asked by Martin Luther King, Jr., to become northern coordinator for the then-fledgling civil rights organization he had helped found, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Heart of a Woman concludes with Angelou and her son, Guy, moving to Africa, where she first worked for an English-language newsweekly in Cairo, and then at the University of Ghana. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Lynn Z. Bloom called The Heart of a Woman a particularly inspired book. Angelous enlarged focus and clear vision transcend the particulars, Bloom wrote, and like / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the book presents a fascinating universality of perspective and psychological depth.

Explored African Sojourn

Angelou more fully explored her Africa experience in her fifth book, All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes, of which a reviewer in Time noted that the author meditates on the search for historical and spiritual roots. According to Baker in the New York Times Book Review, one of the interesting aspects that Angelou explores is her realization that Africa is a homeland that refuses to become home. Though independence and prosperity make Ghana a festival in black, there is no point of connection between Miss Angelou and what she calls the soul of Africa. Barbara T. Christian likewise observed in the Chicago Tribune Book World that Angelous sojourn in Africa strengthens her bonds to her ancestral home even as she concretely experiences her distinctiveness as an Afro-American. Wanda Coleman in the Los Angeles Times Book Review called All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes an important document drawing more much-needed attention to the hidden history of a people both African and American.

Commenting on Angelous autobiographical writings, ONeale wrote that one of the authors overall achievements is the elevation of the black female in literature. One who has made her life her message and whose message to all aspiring Black women is the reconstruction of her experiential self, is Maya Angelou. With the wide public and critical reception of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in the early seventies, Angelou bridged the gap between life and art, a step that is essential if Black women are to be deservedly credited with the mammoth and creative feat of noneffacing survival. Cudjoe similarly commented that Angelous autobiographies rescue not only her personal history, but the collective history of all black women: It is in response to these specific concerns that Maya Angelou offered her autobiographical statements, presenting a powerful, authentic and profound signification of the condition of Afro-American womanhood in her quest for understanding and love rather than for bitterness and despair. Her work is a triumph in the articulation of truth in simple, forthright terms.

Articulated the Struggle of Black Women

Angelou commented to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work on the special importance of images for black women. Image making is very important for every human being. It is especially important for black American women in that we are, by being black, a minority in the United States, and by being female, the less powerful of the genders. If we look out of our eyes at the immediate world around us, we see whites and males in dominant roles. We need to see our mothers, aunts, our sisters, and grandmothers. Angelou also described the awareness and responsibility she feels in providing images for black women: In one way, it means all the work, all the loneliness and discipline my work exacts, demands, is not in vain. It also means, in a more atavistic, absolutely internal way, that I can never die. Its like living through children. So when I approach a piece of work, that is in my approach, whether its a poem that might appear frivolous or is a serious piece. In my approach I take as fact that my work will be carried on.

In addition to her books of autobiography, Angelou has written several volumes of poetry that further explore the South, racial confrontation, and the triumph of black people against overwhelming odds. According to Tate, Angelous poems are characterised by a spontaneous joyfulness and an indomitable spirit to survive. Among her many accomplishments, Angelou wrote the screenplay and score for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia, and in 1979 penned the screen adaptation of / Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She has made numerous television appearances, including her 1977 role in the landmark television movie, Roots, and as a guest on many talk shows. Angelou speaks French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Fanti, a language of southern Ghana. She is a popular lecturer throughout the United States.

Selected writings

Autobiography

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Random House, 1970. Gather Together in My Name, Random House, 1974.

Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas, Random House, 1976.

The Heart: of a Woman, Random House, 1981.

All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House, 1986.

Poetry

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water fore I Diiie, Random House, 1971.

Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, Random House, 1975.

And Still I Rise, Random House, 1978.

Shaker, Why Dont You Sing? Random House, 1983.

Poems: Maya Angelou, Bantam, 1986.

Now Sheba Sings the Song, Dial Books, 1987.

I Shall Not Be Moved, Random House, 1990.

Plays

(With Godfrey Cambridge) Cabaret for Freedom (musical revue), produced at Village Gate, New York City, 1960.

The Least of These, produced in Los Angeles, 1966.

Ajax (adaptation of Sophocless Ajax), produced at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1974.

And Still I Rise, produced in Oakland, Calif., 1976.

Film and television scripts

Blacks, Blues, Black (ten television programs), National Educational Television, 1968.

Georgia, Georgia (film), Cinerama, 1972.

All Day Long, American Film Institute, 1974.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (film), 1979.

Sister, Sister, NBC-TV, 1982.

Three-Way Choice, CBS-TV.

Also author of the fiction work Mrs. Flowers: A Moment of Friendship, Redpath Press, 1986. Contributor of articles, short stories, and poems to periodicals, and of material to books. Composer of songs, including two for the film For the Love of Ivy.

Sources

Books

Angelou, Maya, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Random House, 1970.

Angelou, Maya, Gather Together in My Name, Random House, 1974.

Angelou, Maya, Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas, Random House, 1976.

Angelou, Maya, The Heart of a Woman, Random House, 1981.

Angelou, Maya, All Gods Children Need Traveling Shoes, Random House, 1986.

Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, edited by Mari Evans, Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983.

Black Women Writers at Work, edited by Claudia Tate, Continuum, 1983.

Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches From Contemporary Authors, Gale, 1989.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 12, 1980, Volume 35, 1985.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, Gale, 1985.

Periodicals

Black Scholar, Summer 1982.

Chicago Tribune Book World, March 23, 1986.

Harpers Bazaar, November 1972.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 13, 1986; August 9, 1987.

New York Times, February 25, 1970.

New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1974; May 11, 1986.

Southern Humanities Review, Fall 1973.

Time, March 31, 1986.

Village Voice, July 11, 1974; October 28, 1981.

Washington Post Book World, October 4, 1981; June 26, 1983; May 11, 1986.

Michael E. Mueller

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"Angelou, Maya 1928—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Angelou, Maya 1928—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/angelou-maya-1928

"Angelou, Maya 1928—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/angelou-maya-1928

Angelou, Maya

Maya Angelou

Born April 4, 1928

St. Louis, Missouri

Poet, author, actress, director

Decades before she rose to great acclaim in the arts, Maya Angelou was breaking down barriers and laying the groundwork for her life's mission of helping others. As a teenager during World War II (193945), she became the first black American streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California. She also witnessed firsthand the removal of thousands of Japanese American citizens from San Francisco by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). These citizens were forced to leave their homes and evacuate to camps spread throughout the United States. The tragic scene made a lasting impression on Angelou, who worked to better the lives of others the rest of her life.

Angelou became a noted author, poet, teacher, and historian. The first black American woman director in Hollywood, Angelou wrote, produced, directed, and acted in productions for stage, film, and television. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (19291968) and actively participated in the movement for civil rights in America and in South Africa during the 1950s. On January 20, 1993, Angelou read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton (1946; served 19932001) in Washington, D.C. She held a lifetime appointment as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, into the twenty-first century.

Growing up during the Great Depression

Marguerite Annie Johnson (later known as Maya Angelou) was born on April 4, 1928, to Vivian Baxter and Bailey Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri. Her brother, Bailey Johnson Jr., was born the previous year. The family moved west to Long Beach, California, soon after Marguerite's birth. When their parents divorced in 1931, the two youngsters, Marguerite and Bailey, were sent alone on a long train ride eastward to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Johnson Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. The children called her Momma, and she would take care of them off and on throughout their lives.

When Marguerite turned seven years old, she and Bailey reunited with their mother, who was now living in St. Louis. A year later, Marguerite suffered an assault at the hands of one of her mother's boyfriends. The trauma left the little girl without a voice. The children were returned to Momma in Stamps, where Marguerite remained mute for five years, speaking only to her trusted brother Bailey. A local family friend, Bertha Flowers, recognized that Marguerite, despite her muteness, had a literary gift and introduced her to literature. She read to her, showed her the books in her own library, and invited the child to borrow them under one condition: Marguerite must read them out loud. Because she loved to read and loved the personal attention from Mrs. Flowers, Marguerite slowly began to speak again.

In 1940 Marguerite graduated at the top of her eighth grade class from the racially segregated Lafayette County Training School. She said good-bye to her beloved grandmother as she and Bailey left Arkansas to move back into their mother's home, this time in San Francisco, California. At age thirteen Marguerite excelled in her classes at George Washington High School in the city. She won a scholarship for evening classes at the California Labor School, where she studied drama and dance. It was here that she dreamed of becoming a professional dancer.

World War II

Just as the children were settling into their new lives in California, World War II was threatening America. Their mother and her new husband had purchased a fourteen-room home on Post Street in the Fillmore District of San Francisco and had turned it into a boardinghouse. The lodgers who came to stay at the house were a diverse and interesting group that provided a sharp contrast to the quiet life Marguerite had known in rural Arkansas.

The Fillmore area had previously been the center of San Francisco's large population of Japanese immigrants and their descendants. With the outbreak of World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were interned in prison camps by the federal government, which considered them a security risk now that Japan had become a declared enemy of the United States. Many Asian American families were forced to sell or leave their homes and businesses and go to live in crowded camps because of their ancestral background. Marguerite was witness to a form of racism different from what she had seen in the South. Few people spoke out against the internment but the experience made an impact on Marguerite's life.

In a short time, black Americans replaced the Japanese American population of Fillmore. Many blacks were lured to the city from rural areas by the ready availability of jobs in various industries rejuvenated by the war, such as shipping and munitions manufacturing. For black Americans in urban areas, the war meant a period of relative prosperity. The Fillmore district in San Francisco was a bustling center of activity.

When Marguerite was fifteen years old, she decided to get a job. Many jobs that were usually performed by men were now opened to women because of the war. She noticed women working as streetcar conductors and decided she wanted to be one. At the time, however, blacks were not allowed to work on streetcars. For a month Marguerite arrived every morning at the company office until she was allowed to fill out an application for the job. She added four years to her true age on the application and the company finally hired her. She became the first black American conductor of cable cars on the streets of San Francisco.

Struggling to survive

In 1945 World War II ended and the country was celebrating victory over Germany and Japan. Marguerite received her diploma from Mission High School and several months later gave birth to her son Clyde (Guy) Bailey Johnson. At the age of seventeen she now had a child of her own to raise. She worked a variety of jobs in order to support her son, and even tried to join the army in the late 1940s to receive some vocational training, but she was turned down. Marguerite finally ended up in sales in a record store, where she was able to indulge her love of music. It was there that she met Tosh Angelos, a Greek American soldier who shared her interest in jazz music and adored Guy. Marguerite and Angelos were married in 1952.

Marguerite had studied dance for years. She decided to put her natural talent and years of training to the test by trying to make a living in the entertainment industry. She soon found work in nightclubs and began using the name Rita Johnson until her act brought her to the attention of the owners of the Purple Onion, San Francisco's most popular club at the time. The owners hired her to work for them but decided that she needed a more theatrical name and set about helping her choose one. They settled on Maya, which was her brother Bailey's nickname for her, and the name that her family called her. Her married name Angelos was turned into Angelou and she debuted at the Purple Onion as Maya Angelou in 1953.

Talent scouts saw Angelou perform, and she was chosen to be a member of the all-black cast for the musical Porgy and Bess, which was touring Europe and Africa. Angelou stayed with the tour from 1954 to 1955 but missed her son too much and returned to the United States to be with him. Maya and Tosh Angelos divorced in 1954, and Angelou continued making a living as a nightclub singer.

The civil rights movement

In 1959 Maya Angelou took Guy and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked to establish herself as a nightclub singer and actress. She knew she wanted to write so she joined the Harlem Writers' Guild, a group of excellent black American writers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the civil rights movement seeking racial justice in America at the time. Angelou heard him speak and decided to help raise awareness about the civil rights struggle. She and another performer wrote, produced, and appeared in the revue Cabaret for Freedom in order to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that King led.

While working as northern coordinator of the SCLC Angelou met and fell in love with South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make. She and Guy moved with Make to Cairo, Egypt, where Angelou worked as a journalist. In 1963 Angelou took Guy and moved to Accra, Ghana, in West Africa. She continued working as a journalist until returning to the United States in 1965.

A Best-Selling Author and Poet

Maya Angelou published many books of verse and stories of her amazing life including her home front experiences as a San Francisco streetcar conductor. In addition to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), she published other autobiographies, including Gather Together in My Name (1974), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986). Following her highly acclaimed first book of poetry titled Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie in 1971 came many other books of verse and meditation, including Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975), Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now (1993), Life Doesn't Frighten Me (1993), Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997), and A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002). Random House publishers released The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou in 1994. In 1999 Maya Angelou received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.

National recognition

In the late 1960s Angelou focused her energies on her writing. The first installment of her autobiography, titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969. In the book, Angelou describes the hardship of her early years during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the home front war years of the early 1940s. Both humorous and touching, she realistically related the human condition as seen through the eyes of a young black girl from the South. The book became an immediate best-seller and was nominated for a National Book Award.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Angelou wrote and published four more volumes of her autobiography and several books of poetry. In 1972 she was nominated for a Pulitzer prize for her first published book of verse, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971). She was the first black American woman to attain membership in the Directors Guild, and became the first to have a screenplay produced in Hollywood when she wrote the script for Georgia, Georgia (1971). Angelou adapted her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, for television in 1970 and was later nominated for an Emmy award for her acting performance in the television miniseries Roots (1977). She was also nominated for a Tony award for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1975).

In 1981 Angelou became a literature professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and continued writing. She received numerous honorary degrees and worked as a literacy activist with the goal of helping to eliminate illiteracy. Traveling extensively, Angelou gave readings and spoke to audiences about her writing and about the lessons she learned throughout her life. In 1996 Angelou was appointed as a national ambassador for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an appointment she held into the twenty-first century.

For More Information

Books

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.

Hansen, Joyce. Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference. New York: Scholastic Press, 1998.

King, Sarah E. Maya Angelou: Greeting the Morning. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1994.

Shapiro, Miles. Maya Angelou: Author. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.

Web sites

"Maya Angelou." The Academy of American Poets. http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=88 (accessed on July 18, 2004).

"Maya Angelou: Greatness Through Literature." Women's International Center. http://www.wic.org/bio/mangelou.htm (accessed on July 18, 2004).

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Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (born 1928)—author, poet, play wright, stage and screen performer, and director—is best known for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), which recalls a young African American woman's discovery of her self-confidence.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up in rural Stamps, Arkansas, with her brother, Bailey, she lived with her pious grandmother, who owned a general store. She attended public schools in Arkansas and California, and became San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor. Later she studied dance with Martha Graham and drama with Frank Silvera, and went on to a career in theater. She appeared in Porgy and Bess, which toured 22 countries; on Broadway in Look Away; and in several off-Broadway plays, including Cabaret for Freedom, which she wrote in collaboration with Godfrey Cambridge.

During the early 1960s, Angelou lived in Egypt, where she was the associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo. During this time, she also contributed articles to The Ghanaian Times and was featured on the Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation programming in Accra. During the mid-1960s, she became assistant administrator of the School of Music and Drama at the University of Ghana. She was the feature editor of the African Review in Accra from 1964 to 1966. During this time she served as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When she returned to the United States, Angelou worked as writer-producer for 20th Century-Fox Television, from which her full-length feature film Sisters, Sisters received critical acclaim. In addition, she wrote the screenplays Georgia, Georgia and All Day Long along with the television scripts for Sister, Sister and the series premiere of Brewster Place. She wrote, produced, and hosted the NET public broadcasting series Blacks! Blues! Black! Angelou also costarred in the motion picture How to Make an American Quilt in 1995.

Angelou has taught at several American colleges and universities, including the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, and California State University at Sacramento. Since the early 1980s, she has been Reynolds Professor and writer-in-residence at Wake Forest University.

Angelou has been a prolific poet for decades. Her collections include Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die (1971); Oh Pray My Wings Are Going to Fit Me Well (1975); And Still I Rise (1976), which was produced as a choreo-poem on Off-Broadway in 1979; and Shaker, Why Don't You Sing (1983) Poems: Maya Angelou (1986); Life Doesn't Frighten Me, illustrated by celebrated New York artist Jean Michel Basquiat (1993); On the Pulse of the Morning (1993), recited at Bill Clinton's first Presidential Inauguration; Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1994); and I Shall Not Be Moved (1997), her first book of poetry in over 10 years.

Angelou's poetry is fashioned almost entirely of short lyrics and jazzy rhythms. Although her poetry has contributed to her reputation and is especially popular among young people, most commentators reserve their highest praise for her prose. Angelou's dependence on alliteration, her heavy use of short lines, and her conventional vocabulary has led several critics to declare her poetry superficial and devoid of her celebrated humor. Other reviewers, however, praise her poetic style as refreshing and graceful. They also laud Angelou for addressing social and political issues relevant to African Americans and for challenging the validity of traditional American values and myths. For example, Angelou directed national attention to humanitarian concerns with her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning," which she recited at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. In this poem, Angelou calls for recognition of the human failings pervading American history and an renewed national commitment to unity and social improvement.

Although Angelou began her literary career as a poet, she is well known for her five autobiographical works, which depict sequential periods of her life. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) is about Marguerite Johnson and her brother Bailey growing up in Arkansas. It chronicles Angelou's life up to age sixteen, providing a child's perspective of the perplexing world of adults. Although her grandmother instilled pride and confidence in her, her self-image was shattered when she was raped at the age of eight by her mother's boyfriend. Angelou was so devastated by the attack that she refused to speak for approximately five years. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings concludes with Angelou having regained self-esteem and caring for her newborn son, Guy. In addition to being a trenchant account of an African American girl's coming-of-age, this work affords insights into the social and political tensions of the 1930s. Sidonie Ann Smith echoed many critics when she wrote: "Angelou's genius as a writer is her ability to recapture the texture of the way of life in the texture of its idioms, its idiosyncratic vocabulary and especially in its process of image-making."

Her next autobiographical work, Gather Together in My Name, (1974) covers the period immediately after the birth of her son Guy and depicts her valiant struggle to care for him as a single parent. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976) describes Angelou's stage debut and concludes with her return from the international tour of Porgy and Bess. The Heart of A Woman (1981) portrays the mature Angelou becoming more comfortable with her creativity and her success. All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) recalls her four-year stay in Ghana.

Widely celebrated by popular audiences and critics, Angelou has a long roster of recognitions, including: a nomination for National Book Award, 1970, for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; a Yale University fellowship, 1970; a Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1972, for Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie; an Antoinette Perry ("Tony" ) Award nomination from League of New York Theatres and Producers, 1973, for performance in Look Away; Rockefeller Foundation scholar in Italy, 1975; honorary degrees from Smith College, 1975, Mills College, 1975, Lawrence University, 1976, and Wake Forest University, 1977; a Tony Award nomination for best supporting actress, 1977, for Roots; and the North Carolina Award in Literature, 1987. In the 1970s she was appointed to the Bicentennial Commission by President Gerald Ford, and the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year by Jimmy Carter. She was also named Woman of the Year in Communications by Ladies' Home Journal, 1976; and named one of the top one hundred most influential women by Ladies' Home Journal, 1983.

Angelou's autobiographical works have an important place in the African American tradition of personal narrative, and they continue to garner praise for their honesty and moving sense of dignity. Although an accomplished poet and dramatist, Angelou is dedicated to the art of autobiography. Angelou explained that she is "not afraid of the ties [between past and present]. I cherish them, rather. It's the vulnerability … it's allowing oneself to be hypnotized. That's frightening because we have no defenses, nothing. We've slipped down the well and every side is slippery. And how on earth are you going to come out? That's scary. But I've chosen it, and I've chosen this mode as my mode."

Further Reading

For biographical information, see the following periodical pieces: "The African-American Scholar Interviews: Maya Angelou," in the African-American Scholar (January/February 1977); "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," in Ebony (April 1970); and Mary Helen Washington, "Their Fiction Becomes Our Reality," in African-American World (August 1974). For critical information see: Estelle C. Jelinek, "In Search of the African-American Female Self: African-American Women's Autobiographies and Ethnicity," in Women's Autobiography (1980); Claudia Tate, African-American Women Writers at Work (1983); Carol E. Neubauer, "Displacement and Autobiographical Style in Maya Angelou's The Heart of a Woman," in African-American Literature Forum (1983); and Mari Evans, "Maya Angelou" in African-American Women Writers, 1950-1980 (1983).

Additional information can be found in "Maya-ness is Next to Godliness," in GQ (July 1995) and "Maya Angelou: A Celebrated Poet Issues a Call to Arms to the Nation's Artists," in Mother Jones (May/June 1995). □

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Angelou, Maya

Maya Angelou

Born: April 4, 1928
St. Louis, Missouri

African American author, poet, and playwright

Maya Angelouauthor, poet, playwright, stage and screen performer, and directoris best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), the story of her early life, which recalls a young African American woman's discovery of her self-confidence.

Eventful early life

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. After her parents' marriage ended, she and her brother, Bailey (who gave her the name "Maya"), were sent to rural Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their grandmother, who owned a general store. Although her grandmother helped her develop pride and self-confidence, Angelou was devastated when she was raped at the age of eight by her mother's boyfriend while on a visit to St. Louis. After she testified against the man, several of her uncles beat him to death. Believing that she had caused the man's death by speaking his name, Angelou refused to speak for approximately five years. She attended public schools in Arkansas and later California. While still in high school she became the first ever African American female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to a son at age sixteen. In 1950 she married Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor, but the marriage lasted only a few years.

Later Angelou studied dance and drama and went on to a career in theater. She appeared in Porgy and Bess, which gave performances in twenty-two countries. She also acted in several plays on and off Broadway, including Cabaret for Freedom, which she wrote with Godfrey Cambridge. During the early 1960s Angelou lived in Cairo, Egypt, where she was the associate editor of The Arab Observer. During this time she also contributed articles to The Ghanaian Times and was featured on the Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation programming in Accra, Ghana. During the mid-1960s she became assistant administrator of the School of Music and Drama at the University of Ghana. She was the feature editor of the African Review in Accra from 1964 to 1966. After returning to the United States civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (19291968) requested she serve as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Success as an author

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), the first in a series of Angelou's autobiographical (telling the story of her own life) works, was a huge success. It describes Angelou's life up to age sixteen, providing a child's point of view about the confusing world of adults. The book concludes with Angelou having regained her self-esteem and caring for her newborn son. In addition to being a sharp account of an African American girl's coming of age, this work offers insights into the social and political climate of the 1930s.

Her next autobiographical work, Gather Together in My Name (1974), covers the period immediately after the birth of her son Guy and describes her struggle to care for him as a single parent. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976) describes Angelou's experiences on the stage and concludes with her return from the international tour of Porgy and Bess. The Heart of A Woman (1981) shows the mature Angelou becoming more comfortable with her creativity and her success. All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) recalls her four-year stay in Ghana. Angelou wrote about other subjects as well, including a children's book entitled Kofi and His Magic (1996).

Other works and awards

Angelou had been writing poetry since before her novels became popular. Her collections include: Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie (1971); Oh Pray My Wings Are Going to Fit Me Well (1975); And Still I Rise (1976), which was made into an Off-Broadway production in 1979; Shaker, Why Don't You Sing (1983); Life Doesn't Frighten Me, illustrated by celebrated New York artist Jean Michel Basquiat (1993); Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1994); and I Shall Not Be Moved (1997). Angelou's poetry, with its short lyrics and jazzy rhythms, is especially popular among young people, but her heavy use of short lines and her simple vocabulary has turned off several critics. Other reviewers, however, praise Angelou's poetry for discussing social and political issues that are important to African Americans. For example Angelou's poem "On the Pulse of the Morning," which she recited at the 1993 swearing in of President Bill Clinton (1946), calls for a new national commitment to unity and social improvement.

Angelou has received many awards for her work, including a nomination for National Book Award, 1970; a Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1972; a Tony Award nomination from the League of New York Theatres and Producers, 1973, for her performance in Look Away; a Tony Award nomination for best supporting actress, 1977, for Roots; and the North Carolina Award in Literature, 1987. In the 1970s she was appointed to the Bicentennial Commission by President Gerald Ford (1913) and the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year by President Jimmy Carter (1924). She was also named Woman of the Year in Communications by Ladies' Home Journal, 1976, and one of the top one hundred most influential women by Ladies' Home Journal, 1983. Angelou has also taught at several American colleges and universities, including the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, and California State University at Sacramento.

Television and movies

Angelou also worked in television as a writer-producer for 20th Century-Fox, from which her full-length feature film Sister, Sister received critical praise. In addition she wrote the screenplays Georgia, Georgia and All Day Long along with television scripts for Sister, Sister and the series premiere of Brewster Place. She wrote, produced, and hosted the National Educational Television series Blacks! Blues! Black! She also costarred in the motion picture How to Make an American Quilt in 1995. Angelou made her first attempt at film directing with the feature length movie Down in the Delta (1998). The film told the story of a seventy-year-old woman and her personal journey. Angelou found directing to be a much different experience from writing because with directing you have "ninety crew and the cast and the sets and lights and the sound."

Although Angelou is dedicated to the art of autobiographya sixth volume, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, was published in 2002in her seventies she remains a force in several different fields. Since the early 1980s she has been Reynolds Professor and writer-in-residence at Wake Forest University. In the year 2000 she was honored by President Clinton with the National Medal of Arts, and in 2002 Hallmark introduced The Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection, a series of greeting cards containing her verse. She also has plans to write a cookbook and direct another feature film.

For More Information

Kite, L. Patricia. Maya Angelou. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1999.

Loos, Pamela. Maya Angelou. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.

Shapiro, Miles. Maya Angelou. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.

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Angelou, Maya

Maya Angelou (mī´ə ăn´jəlōō), 1928–2014, African-American writer and performer, b. St. Louis, Mo., as Marguerite Johnson. She toured Europe and Africa in the musical Porgy and Bess (1954–55), then sang in New York City nightclubs, joined the Harlem Writers Guild, and took part in several off-Broadway productions, including Genet's The Blacks and her own Cabaret for Freedom (1960). During the 1960s she was active in the African-American political movement; she subsequently moved to Cairo where she edited The Arab Observer and then spent several years in Ghana as editor of the African Review. During the 1970s she appeared on Broadway, in several feature films, and in the TV miniseries Roots. Although she wrote poems, plays, and short stories, all in a lush and lyrical style that was both lauded and criticized, she is best known for her six autobiographical volumes (1970–2002), the first and most popular of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which tells of her childhood in the segregated South. Her several volumes of poetry include And I Still Rise (1978). Angelou read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

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Angelou, Maya

Angelou, Maya (1928– ) US writer, editor, and entertainer. She is best known for six volumes of autobiography, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). Evoking her childhood in 1930s Arkansas, it relates the rape that left Angelou mute for the next five years. The fourth volume, The Heart of a Woman, deals with her involvement in the 1960s Civil Rights movement as the Northern Coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr. She read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

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