Today In History: Maya Angelou Born
Today in 1928, Maya Angelou was born. Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was one of the most popular and esteemed writers in modern American history. She is best remembered for her memoirs and poetry. Additionally, she was also a singer, a playwright, a screenwriter and a civil rights activist. She came to be known globally after the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her first memoir, in 1969.
Angelou wore many hats in her youth, working as a short order cook, a dancer at a nightclub, and a sex worker. She also joined the cast of an opera, worked as a journalist in Egypt and Ghana and worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
She participated in the Civil Rights Movement, working with both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She got her first academic position in 1982, when she was named the first ever Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Winston-Salem’s Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Later, in the nineties, she became a touring lecturer. She continued her public speaking well into her old age.
In 1993, she recited a poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. She was the first poet to read at an inauguration since Robert Frost in 1961.
Angelou’s written work is still taught widely in schools. She also bore the distinction of being one of the most widely-banned authors in American schools, for the graphic content of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Maya Angelou passed away in 2014. She is remembered as an American literary great, and a respected advocate of black culture.