What Did Maya Angelou Face

Maya Angelou’s Host of Challenges

Author and poet Maya Angelou faced immense challenges in her life, ranging from racial discrimination to financial struggles. Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Vivian Baxter and Bailey Johnson, who were divorced shortly afterwards. At seven years old, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and became mute for five years. This was a formative, traumatic experience that Angelou would eventually draw strength from. Angelou went on to triumph in a multitude of ways throughout her lifetime, leaving behind a legacy of literature and justice.

Maya Angelou was raised by her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, alongside her brother Bailey. Angelou received her first experience with racism within the town, which was segregated. Angelou recalled being banned from store counters during her childhood, lasting memories of racial prejudice and humiliation. Despite the town’s intolerance, Angelou’s grandmother instilled in her a strong sense of faith and pride, allowing Angelou to overcome the dual hardships of racism and being a victim of sexual violence.

Angelou had an innovative and sophisticated ability to conquer her fear, resulting in an illustrious career as a writer, actress, dancer, and social activist. She excelled in the literary world by writing autobiographies that were read around the world, reflecting both her courage and distinct responsibility. Angelou would often speak to her audience about her hardships, giving a voice to the voiceless.

Despite the success of her books and poetry, Angelou faced a multitude of setbacks, including poverty and uncertain days as a single mother. Despite her financial shortcomings, Angelou was determined to further her education and worked tirelessly to attain her PhD. The writer also became a living symbol of civil rights, openly discussing and debating the countless forms of discrimination and lack of African American rights she experienced. Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings won awards such as the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

An expatriate, Angelou lived in Ghana in the 1960s, ultimately becoming the first black female streetcar operator in San Francisco. Angelou’s career further developed, as she became an appointed professor, and eventually a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. She worked as President Carter’s campaign coordinator, a lecturer at universities, and wrote for various magazines and even wrote for a cookbook.

The visionary was also a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, establishing her close relationships with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Maya Angelou acted as a beacon of hope for the African American community throughout the entire struggle. Angelou faced these struggles in her lifetime but made an unforgettable stamp in history by continuing to share her voice and empowering other authors to speak up.

The Impact of Discrimination

Maya Angelou faced overt discrimination in her early life and this inequality shaped her formative years. Children of color faced incredible prejudice, being forced to use separate facilities and being refused services. Angelou recounts when she was denied access to restaurant counters as a child, as well as being eventually pressured to leave the town due to its racism. These constant experiences of segregation had a damaging effect on Maya Angelou, leaving her with a lifelong aversion to prejudice.

Angelou was well aware of the clash between whites and blacks, and she used her literary works to challenge the system and call out racism. Angelou changed the narrative through her courageous words, refusing to be silenced. In her work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou explored the harms of racism, specifically focusing on the isolating and ostracizing experiences of black females. Despite the various forms of racial discrimination she faced, Angelou refused to be marginalized.

Angelou worked alongside the Civil Rights leaders throughout the entire struggle, frequently speaking about the violence and prejudices which minorities faced on a daily basis. Through her poetry and prose, Angelou provides a vital window into the truths of the Civil Rights Movement, and the empowering message of fighting for justice in the face of adversity. As a public figure, Angelou addressed countless crowds and was determined to ensure her message of defending African Americans against prejudice would be heard.

Angelou’s works emphasize the potential of African Americans, despite the overwhelming odds against them. Angelou’s unique voice challenges the limitations society places on African Americans by targeting the factors of race and gender. Furthermore, she promoted the use of passion and strategic action to begin the conversation of change while addressing the doctrines of hope in her work.

Tireless in her advocacy, Angelou emphasized an empowering ethos, consoling her community in her work. Angelou’s legacy is one of cautionary tales and a refusal to stay in silence, and her words continue to stand as a powerful reminder of the ongoing fight for racial equality.

Rape as a Formative Experience

Maya Angelou was sexually abused as a child and the trauma of this experience shaped her early life. Believing she was helpless to the attack, Angelou was filled with shame, unable and unwilling to speak about her experience. She believed her voice contributed to her attack, prompting her to become mute and deny her attackers the satisfaction of her pain.

Angelou experienced shame and mistrust, as she was convinced that this life-altering experience was her fault. The rapist wanted to steal her voice, yet Angelou refused to stay silent. Angelou eventually worked through this moment of life-altering trauma, developing a resilient and uplifting outlook despite her suffering.

In her first book, Angelou chronicles her experience as a victim, with outspoken nerve and raw honesty. Angelou’s courage to speak up, when it would be far easier to remain silent, is incredibly brave and admirable. Her act of defiance and refusal to stay in limbo provided an example for countless people all around her, showing the power of resilience and courage in the face of darkness.

It was only once she was an adult that Angelou was able to put the pieces together, and access the strength she had repressed. With her newfound strength and courage, Angelou evolved as an author and truly began to make her voice known. Angelou’s triumph out of overwhelming odds enabled her to become the iconic and influential figure she was.

Angelou’s Financial Struggles

As an established author and poet, Maya Angelou nonetheless faced financial struggles throughout her life. Angelou, who spent much of her time working as a single mother, found herself unable to overcome financial woes. Despite the success of her books, she remained underpaid and unable to support herself and her son.

Angelou worked tirelessly throughout her entire life to overcome these obstacles, and went on to pursue a PhD at the esteemed University of California. Angelou worked an array of jobs, involving her in such industries as real estate, insurance, film, and the culinary arts. Her dedication to her studies enabled Angelou to pursue her dreams, despite the odds against her.

Angelou tells her own story of perseverance and triumph, promoting her own narratives of hope. Angelou’s innocence, resilience, and courage are key characteristics that shine throughout her works. Throughout her struggles, she relentlessly worked to break into the hard walls of financial difficulty, making use of her intelligence and distinct literacy skills.

Angelou was an inherent leader, as her creative works and advocacy of the Civil Rights Movement led her to a life of fame and distinction. Angelou was a well-rounded figure, utilizing her skills in the kitchen, and becoming President Carter’s campaign coordinator. Despite a life of financial setbacks, Angelou was able to produce a body of work that spanned across various mediums and areas of expertise.

The Courage to Speak Up

Maya Angelou had the courage to speak up and use her voice in order to challenge the injustice she faced as a black woman. Angelou was targeted by racism throughout her childhood and beyond, leading her to initiate a legacy of justice and reform in both its literary and physical forms.

Angelou used her creative works to bring awareness to the injustices of racism, yet she also served as an inspiring public figure in the struggle for civil rights. Angelou stands out amongst a bevy of leaders who, despite having a platform to speak, remained silent. Angelou, however, chose to be bold, confidently speaking out and demanding reform. With a unique voice that could not be ignored, Angelou’s strides cannot be overstated.

Angelou was honest, willing to open her autobiography and tell her innermost dark secrets. In her works, Angelou exposed the traumas of a young girl, who was once silenced in order to further protect herself from trauma, now had a powerful, distinct voice. As she blossomed and developed personally and professionally, her work became a symbol of resilience and an example of overcoming adversity.

Angelou was still aware that her works may not be received positively, as her narrative supported the defiance of societal norms. Nonetheless, Maya Angelou followed through and created history with her original stories. Angelou’s legacy of literature and activism has gone on to inspire generations and bring hope to the voiceless.

The Legacy of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s legacy of courage, hope and justice will remain everlasting. Angelou served as an example of power, resilience and determination, as Angelou broadened horizons and raised awareness to issues of racism and equality. Angelou’s activism was multifaceted, as she addressed these issues through both creative language and her physical presence at events.

As an author, Maya Angelou shaped the discourse of race, setting the tone for American literature from female authors of color. Angelou’s books advanced a narrative of hope and faith, and her message of justice revolutionized literature. She provided a window for society to evaluate the struggles and ongoing issues of those throughout the African American community.

Angelou was a voice for the voiceless, ultimately becoming a leader in the ongoing fight for civil rights. Despite societal obstacles, Maya Angelou aimed high, aspiring to do justice to herself, her community and the numerous struggles she faced as a black woman. Her courage acted as a symbol of hope and an untold acknowledgment of bravery, particularly to those oppressed and silenced.

The prolific author was an unapologetic figure, uncompromising in her activism and adamant in her writing. Accepted by those revered and revered by those with less power, Angelou’s words and her life inspired many. Her stories will continue to live on long after her death, and Angelou’s presence will remain integral in the ongoing struggles for justice.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

Leave a Comment