- The African American Maya Angelou was born Marguerite
Annie Johnson in 1928 in St Louis Missouri, in the American
- She took the name "Maya Angelou" when she became a cabaret
artist in her late twenties.
- The first and most famous of her works wasn't published
until she was over forty, in 1969.
- Her work tells the story of her life. I
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings describes her early
years until she was sixteen.
- Angelou's mother and father divorced when she was only three and she was sent with her brother, Bailey, to live with their grandmother, in Stamps, Arkansas.
- When Angelou was seven, they returned to live with their
mother and her boyfriend back in St Louis. A few months
after her arrival, Angelou experienced an ordeal that she
has never been able to forget -she writes about this in
I Know why
the Caged Bird Sings.
- After her mother's boyfriend raped
her, Angelou refused to speak
- For five years she communicated only with her brother,
- As a result of her silence, most of those around her, with the exception of her immediate family, thought that she must be stupid. But there were one or two who believed in her and encouraged her, including a white teacher, Mrs Flowers, who helped her to develop her enthusiasm for reading and language.
- Encouraged by Mrs Flowers, Angelou not only read and recited poetry but started to write her own poetry.
- Thirty years later, after several marriages and careers as a dancer, brothel-owner, civil rights activist and journalist, and having lived in Egypt and Africa, Angelou returned to America. There she decided to devote herself to writing.
- She was encouraged to write the story of her life and the first volume published in 1969 was an immediate success. She went on to write a further three volumes in less than ten years.