Maya Angelou was one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time: a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. Angelou will be missed, but her legacy of creativity, boldness and passion will continue to live on.
Angelou’s life is nothing short of impressive, and even a fair highlight reel would be pages long. If you weren’t familiar with Angelou, we’ve put together 10 facts worth learning about her that you will not want to miss.
- She is best known for her International bestseller, and first autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, a story which was inspired by her 6 years of silence as a child, during which time she began to cultivate her love for writing.
- The list of her published works includes more than 30 titles.
- She grew up in St. Louis, in 1928, in a climate of racial segregation and would eventually become heavily involved in the civil rights movement. She was a friend to Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she worked side by side for the cause of equality.
- At 16, she became the first female streetcar driver in San Francisco, before returning for her high school diploma at age 17, and discovering her talent for song and dance shortly after while waiting tables.
- She worked as a newspaper editor for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Malcolm X and remained close to him until his assassination in 1965.
- She wrote the drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972—becoming the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced.
- Although she never went to college, she received 30 honorary degrees, and additionally, would come to teach for several years at Wake Forest University.
- She received countless prestigious awards and high honors, a few of which include: her reading of a poem, personally requested by President Clinton at his inauguration in 1993; the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 2000; the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal in 2008, and President Barack Obama awarded her the nation’s highest civilian honor in 2011, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Angelou served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977.
- She received 3 Grammy Awards.
1993 “Best Spoken Word Album”
1995 “Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album”
2002 “Best Spoken Word Album”
Click Here to see a bio as well as video about the great Maya Angelou
“While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.”- Maya Angelou