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Maya Angelou Essay, Research Paper

Tribute to Maya Angelou

Renaissance Woman

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. A true Renaissance woman, Ms. Angelou is an author, poet, songwriter, dancer, actor, director, and producer. She has been nominated for a Tony award for her acting, has received a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry, and has won a National Book Award for her noted autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

This remarkable artist suffered a difficult and unhappy childhood. When she was eight, she was raped by one of her mother s friends. The man was later killed by a lynch mob. This horrible experience left Maya so traumatized that she did not speak for five years. Eventually, with the love and support of her grandmother and her brother Bailey, Maya slowly overcame her fear and handicap. At the same time, Maya began to express herself in other ways. In addition to being a voracious reader, Maya also studied modern dance. She danced and acted professionally for 16 years, and traveled around the world. Maya also started writing magazine articles for African publications, and songs for B.B. King. When Maya returned to the united States, she wrote, produced, and appeared in many shows for television and stage.

Maya is best known for her autobiography, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings . In this book, Maya describes being Black and female in the South during the Depression. The book was later made into a television movie, and was the first of a five-part series of autobiographical books. These books include Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Fore I Die and Gather Together in My Name. Maya says that the idea for her autobiography came during a dinner conversation with some of her friends, including the famous African-American novelist, James Baldwin.

Included among Maya s considerable accomplishments is the fact that she was the first Black woman director in Hollywood. Maya remains ever vigilant of and sensitive to the struggles of African-Americans. She has found some peace in what she calls her second home in Ghana, West Africa. Since 1981, she has taught at wake Forest University, where she was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies.


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