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Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St Louis, Missouri in 1928. Her childhood was hard, and in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), the first of her five volumes of autobiography she writes about her early years during the Depression and the trauma of rape by her mother's lover, which left her mute for 5 years.

After leaving school at 16 and giving birth to her only son, Angelou trained as a singer and dancer. But it was in the 60s that she began to develop as a writer. Through her involvement with the Civil Rights movement, she met Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, both of whom were to influence her for the rest of her life. In 1968, after several years in Ghana as editor of the African Review, she returned to America where her writing and her work in film and theatre brought nominations for an Emmy and the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1986 she published the last of her five volumes of autobiography, All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes, in which she talks of her need to connect with her African past. Her work has brought her recognition around world as a writer speaking for the black women of America in a powerful, inspiring - and humorous - voice.

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Maya Angelou
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BBC Four: Maya Angelou talks to Hermione Lee

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