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Maya Angelou (Maya Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou) Biography

(1928– ), (Maya Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou), African Review, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

african autobiographical american south

African-American autobiographical writer and poet, born in St Louis, Missouri, educated at Mission High School, San Francisco. She was largely brought up in Stamps, Arkansas by her paternal grandmother and in 1940 she rejoined her mother in San Francisco. In the 1950s she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers' Guild, performed in off-Broadway productions, and sang in night-clubs. Later she became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and editor of African Review. More recently she has been Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Best known for her five autobiographical books, the first and best-known volume, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), powerfully describes her childhood in the American South of the 1930s. Gather Together in My Name (1974) continues her story as an unmarried mother in post-war America. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976) highlights her activities in music, theatre, and dance. The Heart of a Woman (1981) focuses on her political activities, particularly with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and her short-lived marriage to Vusumzi Make, an exiled South African political activist. The final volume, All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes (1986), describes her sojourn in Africa. Angelou is also well known as a reciter of her own verse. Her collections include Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie (1971), Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975), and Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987). She also wrote plays, including The Last of These (1966) and Ajax (1974), adapted from Sophocles, as well as the screenplays of Georgia, Georgia (1972) and All Day Long (1974). The Inheritors (1976) is one of her many documentaries about African-Americans written for television. Her press and television interviews have been collected in Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989), edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot. See Dolly A. McPherson, Order out of Chaos: The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou (1991).

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