91 years ago today, Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri.
She is often remembered for her words and inspirational quotes, but her life was much more than that. She is an incredible story of resilience.
She was raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was eight years old. The boyfriend only spent one day in Jail. Four days later, he was murdered. It is commonly believed the killing was done by her uncles. Maya felt that it was her voice telling on her mother’s boyfriend that caused him to die, so she refused to speak. She didn’t utter another word for nearly 5 years.
Photo Credit: Essence.com
She became a teenage mother, and worked to support her son by becoming a prostitute and a madam.
She became involved in the civil rights movement, working closely with Dr. King and Malcolm X. In 1968, Dr. King asked her to help organize a march and a rally. During the time they were working on it, he was assassinated on her 40th birthday.
In 1969, she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. It was a about how you can overcome racism and trauma with character and love. It became the first African American to ever have the number one best seller on the non fiction list. It is one of the most widely read memoirs in history. In 2011, Time Magazine ranked it as one of the most important novels of all time.
She was fluent in six languages. She won three grammy awards. She was a dancer, a playwright, a poet, a historian, and a teacher. She was the first black woman to write a screenplay for a major motion picture. She was awarded over 50 honorary degrees.
She appeared as a supporting actress on “Roots” in 1977.
In 1993, she became the second poet ever to speak at a Presidential inauguration, when she recited a poem for President Clinton. In 2010 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
The next time you see a Maya Angelou quote, please remember there was a lot more to this magnificent woman and her story.
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