Maya Angelou

Jul 12 / Elizabeth Leiba
I remember reading her books and poems as an 11-year-old, curled up in bed long after everyone was asleep, and believing I could do anything!

Maya Angelou was an American writer, poet, and civil rights activist.

She is best known for her series of autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, sex worker, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.

She was also active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made approximately 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her 80s.