Renowned Poet Maya Angelou Was Also an Actress Who Starred in 'Roots'
Renowned poet and author Maya Angelou left a lasting legacy through her life experiences that she turned into lessons on paper and stories in movies.
On May 29, 2014, Maya Angelou died in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at 86-years-old. She had lived an illustrious career as a poet, author, actress, civil rights activist, mentor, and dancer.
Born in St Louis Missouri, she came from humble beginnings with her older brother Bailey. Her parents divorced when she was young. It is reported, at seven-years-old Angelou was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. The trauma left her mute for several years.
As a young adult, she was awarded a scholarship at the California Labor School to study dance and acting. Her path as a trailblazer started during World War II when she briefly worked as a car cable conductor in San Francisco. She was the first black female to hold the position.
By the 1950s, her acting career was on the rise, and she toured in the production of "Porgy and Bess." In 1957 Angelou starred in the 1957 off-Broadway production of "Calypso Heat Wave." The same year she released her first album titled "Miss Calypso."
"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." #MayaAngelou— Maya Angelou (@DrMayaAngelou) March 22, 2020
Thank you all for your courage. pic.twitter.com/sj1hnoepJi
During the 1960s, Angelou's travels to Africa where she spent many years in Ghana, inspired her writing. Fellow author and close friend James Baldwin inspired her to write her 1969 memoir.
The book titled, "I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing," became one of her most famous literary works. In 1995, the New York Times announced that for two years running, her work was on the bestseller list for paperback non-fiction.
Angelou also wrote children's books and appeared on "Sesame Street" several times throughout her career.
We're saddened by the passing of our friend Maya Angelou. Thank you for all you've done, and for all the hugs. pic.twitter.com/kmLCN59Uef— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) May 28, 2014
She was recognized internationally. In her role as a mentor to Oprah Winfrey earned a regular position on the talk show hosts, "Oprah's Book Club." In a statement following Angelou's death, Winfrey praised her accomplishments, saying:
"She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration."
The poet is survived by her son, Guy Johnson, whom she had at 16-years-old during a relationship in high school that did not last very long.
Angelou was notoriously tight-lipped about her relationships. She married a Greek sailor named Anastasios Angelopoulos in 1952. She derived her professional name Angelou by shortening her ex-husband's surname.
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