Maya Angelou

Author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. Her older brother nicknamed her “Maya”, derived from “My” or “Mya Sister”. She had a tumultuous childhood, was the victim of child rape, and was mute for a period of five years. But as a child she also developed a love of literature and exceptional observation skills.

Angelou lived a very full and amazing life. At the young age of 16, she bore a son. After a subsequent marriage to a Greek sailor, Anastasios Angelopulos, she assumed the professional name Maya Angelou.

"Phenomenal woman; that's me."

Her varied career took her to California, New York, Cairo and Ghana. Urged to write about her life, she published a enormously successful 1969 memoir about her childhood and young adult years, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In doing so, she made literary history as the first non-fiction best-selling African-American woman.

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Listen to Maya Angelou recite her poem, Phenomenal Woman here.

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