Type: Controversial Essays
Sample donated: Delia Nichols
Last updated: August 24, 2019
Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou was born in St.
Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. She enjoyed a broad career but is most widely known as a writer and a poet with over fifty honorary degrees. Her works discuss controversial subjects like race, sexual abuse, and violence, but she remains one of the most influential writers in American history. Angelou grew up facing many difficulties during her childhood.
At the age of seven, she experienced a traumatizing experience when she was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later killed by her two uncles. Believing that her words had killed the man, she then fell into a five year silence, during which she tested herself through memorizations of poetry and conversations. She was brought out of her silence by an educated African American woman, Mrs. Flowers, who valued spoken word and education and instilled a love for poetry in Angelou. From an early age, Angelou found a passion for writing and kept a journal. She mainly accredits her grandmother for instilling the values that influenced her later life and career. The Civil Rights movement greatly influenced Angelou’s work.
Prior to writing, Angelou planned to form a new organization with Malcolm X in 1964. After his assassination, Angelou began to work more closely with Martin Luther King Jr. He even invited her to serve as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. However, when he was assassinated on her birthday in 1968, she was devastated. With the help of her friend and novelist James Baldwin, she started writing the book that would later become her most famous novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
This novel made her a national figure and her subsequent writing had a wide audience. She later received 2 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards in the outstanding literature (nonfiction) category. Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014. She had had a diverse career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, as well as Hollywood’s first African-American female director.
While all of those careers shaped Angelou, her writing is what made her famous. Her writing was influenced by Mrs. Flowers and her grandmother, as well as the Civil Rights Movement that was going on during her writing. Even after her death, the things that Angelou fought for, like raising moral standards of living and racial equality, are still being fought for today.