"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is the first in a seven-volume series of autobiographies by the American author and poet, Maya Angelou in 1969. Angelou began the book when she was challenged by her friend, fellow author James Baldwin and editor Robert Loomis to write an autobiography that would also function as a … [Read more...] about I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou received the nickname Maya from her brother when she was a toddler. When she was only three years old, her parents divorced and she was sent to live with her grandmother in Arkansas. As a child, Maya developed a love of reading that stayed with her all of her life and inspired her to write. She was an exceptional student. At the age of age of fourteen, Maya and her brother began living with their mother again in California.
During the second world war, while she was still in high school, Maya began working as the first black streetcar operator in San Francisco. She became pregnant before graduating high school and gave birth to her son, Clyde at the age of seventeen. In 1951, Maya married an electrician and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos, despite the fact that he was a white man and interracial marriages were frowned upon at the time.
During the 1950's, Maya danced and sang professionally in New York City and San Francisco, later touring Europe with a dance troupe. She changed her stage name to Maya Angelou using her nickname and married name although she and her husband divorced in 1954. In 1957, she recorded her first music album, "Miss Calypso" and appeared in an off-Broadway play.
In 1959, Maya moved to New York to concentrate on her writing. She joined the famous Harlem Writer's Guild and was published as a poet for the first time. It was also during this time that Maya began activist campaigns against apartheid.
In the early 1960's, she met a South African freedom fighter named Vusumzi Make and moved, with her son to Cairo where she began working as an editor for an English-language newspaper. Maya was heavily involved in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960's and associated with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, among others. She became close friends with noted Civil Rights and Gay activist James Baldwin who encouraged her to write an autobiography about her life. What resulted was the first in a seven-part series titled, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" which was published in 1969.
Throughout the 1970's, Maya continued to write and appeared in the television mini-series "Roots". She was given many awards, including over thirty honorary degrees from various colleges around the world. Maya worked as a songwriter and composing movie scores. She wrote in almost every format, including articles, short stories, poetry, television scripts, and plays.
In 1973, she was nominated for a Tony Award. In the 1980's, after divorcing for the second time, she became a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In the 1990s, she won a Grammy Award for a recording of a poem that she wrote and in 1996, she directed a feature film called "Down in the Delta". Her sixth autobiography, "A Song Flung Up To Heaven" was completed almost thirty years after starting the autobiography project in 2002.
In 2008, though she initially supported Senator Hilary Clinton for president, Maya began supported then-Senator Barack Obama in his run up to the presidency. Over the course of the next few years, Maya concentrated on writing and giving lectures.
In 2013, she finally completed her autobiography project with the release of 'Mom and Me and Mom' a memoir about her relationship with her mother. Maya died on May 28th, 2014 at the age of 86 and was grieved by fans and fellow writers the world over.