Maya Angelou- Biography

(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)

(born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928), Maya Anjelou was an American author and poet who has been called
"America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.

Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. 

In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. 

She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou's work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or banned in US schools and libraries.
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Maya Angelou Poems

  • Phenomenal Woman
    Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size But when I start to tell them, They think I'm telling lies.
  • Still I Rise
    You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may tread me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise.
  • Caged Bird
    The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends
  • Alone
    Lying, thinking Last night How to find my soul a home Where water is not thirsty
  • Touched By An Angel
    We, unaccustomed to courage exiles from delight live coiled in shells of loneliness until love leaves its high holy temple
  • Woman Work
    I've got the children to tend The clothes to mend The floor to mop The food to shop
  • Men
    When I was young, I used to Watch behind the curtains As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men. Young men sharp as mustard.
  • The Lesson
    I keep on dying again. Veins collapse, opening like the Small fists of sleeping Children.
  • A Conceit
    Give me your hand Make room for me to lead and follow
  • Refusal
    Beloved, In what other lives or lands Have I known your lips Your Hands
  • They Went Home
    They went home and told their wives, that never once in all their lives, had they known a girl like me, But... They went home.
  • Passing Time
    Your skin like dawn Mine like musk One paints the beginning
  • Million Man March Poem
    The night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark, And the walls have been steep.
  • The Detached
    We die, Welcoming Bluebeards to our darkening closets, Stranglers to our outstretched necks, Stranglers, who neither care nor
All poems of Maya Angelou »
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