Who is she?
Maya Angelou was an American poet, activist, writer and feminist, who is best known for her first memoir, Why The Caged Bird Sings. She was a cultural icon, and known as ‘black America’s poet laureate’.
Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at age 7, and he later died – she believed her speaking up about the incident caused his death, and remained mute for six years.
She studied dance and drama, and while studying, she applied to be a cable car conductor in San Francisco, but was refused because of her colour – she sat outside the operator’s office for a month and, at 15, became the first black female conductor in the city.
Maya became a single mother at 17, and worked variously as a prostitute, madam, waitress and cook, while auditioning for stage roles. She toured Europe with a theatre company, and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement, working with Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.
Why should we thank her?
Maya was one of the greatest feminist poets, and her work Why The Caged Bird Sing remains a classic. Her work and her civil rights advocacy had a huge impact – her accomplishments are too huge to list here. President Barack Obama said ,when presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, that she had “spoken to millions, including my mother, which is why my sister is named Maya.”