BORN: April 4, 1928
DIED: Still living
PARENTS: Bailey and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson
EDUCATION: Attended piblic schools in Arkansas and California. Studied dance with Martha Graham and drama with Frank Silvera.
AWARDS and HONORS: A nomination for National Book Award, a Yale University fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize nomination, Honorary degrees from Smith College, and a Tony Award nomination for best supporting actress. She was also named Woman of the Year in Communications by Ladies Home Journal, and was named one of the top hundred most influential women.
Maya attended public schools in Arkansas and California, then, after she moved to San Francisco at the age of 16, Maya became San Franciscos first female streetcar conductor. Later, she studied dance with Martha Graham and drama with Frank Silvera, and then went on to a career in theater. 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. She returned to the United States, and worked as a writer-producer for 20th Century- Fox Television, from which her full-lengh feature film Sisters Sisters was produced. Sisters Sisters received critical acclaim (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 238).
Angelou has been a prolific poet for decades. Her 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. Her poetry addresses social and political issues relevant to African Americans and challenges the validity of traditional American values and myths. She addressed President Clinton's inauguration in 1993 with a poem called "Inaugrual Poem" that she had written which received wide acclaim. Although Angelou began her literary career as a poet, she is well known for her five autobiographical works. The story of her difficulties and unhappy childhood was told in her best-selling autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Kranz,6-7).
Widely celebrated by popular audiences and critics, Angelou has a long roster of recognitions, including: a nomination for National Book Award, a Yale University fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize nomination, Honorary degrees from Smith College, and a Tony Award nomination for best supporting actress. She was also named Woman of the Year in Communications by Ladies Home Journal, and was named one of the top hundred most influential women (Clift,106).
Angelous 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 continues to write, direct, teach, and perform. Her message in all media is the need for self-awareness and self-acceptance, which are won through a connection to ones people, ones family, ones heritage and the experiences of ones past (Angelou, 40).
She appeared in an international tour of Porgy and Bess sponsored by the U.S. Department of State (1954-55) and then performed in off-broad way productions, including Cabaret for Freedom (1960), which she also wrote and produced with Godfrey Cambridge(Encyclopedia of World Biography, 240).
In conclusion, the name Maya Angelou will be known all over the world for good literary works. She has made many people take a second look at how black women have been treated over the years. Without her literature, the people of the United States would never have known how the black women of America have suffered. For more information you may link to Maya's Web Page at http://www.mayaangelou.com. or either of the following links which will tell you more about this amazing women.
Clift, Virgil. Maya Angelou. Encyclopedia of Black America. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc., 1981.
Kranz, Rachel. Straight Talk About Child Abuse. New York: McGraw Hill, 1991.
Maya Angelou. Encyclopedia of World Biography Vol.1. New York: Gale Publishing Co., 1998.
Created by Amanda N and Jessica S
Return to the Black History Projects Page.