What Was Maya Angelou Family Life Like

Maya Angelou had a complex upbringing and an intricate family life. She was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri to Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson. At a young age, she was sent with her brother Bailey Jr. to live with her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. While the family she left behind was shot through with impoverishment and disconnection, the tight-knit black community that surrounded her grandmother offered a different kind of nurture and unconditional love. In tow with her grandmother, her brother and other family members, Angelou traveled to California in the 1940s to reunite with her mother and attend high school there.

Both her father and her mother had other children, so her family’s ties were complex and far reaching. Maya was taken care of by her maternal grandmother in Stamps, her paternal grandmother in California and later on she moved back with her mother reorganizing the family landscape. That notwithstanding, for a time Maya and her brother still visited their father in other towns. Angelou’s mother’s foster family also participated in Angelou’s upbringing, allowing her to benefit from the tutelage of its members.

What was consistent however was the presence of rich African-American heritage and values in Angelou’s home life. This included the memory of the difficult times faced by enslaved Africans and the formation of the Caribbean and traditions from the South. Angelou spent much of her childhood immersed in gospel music and preaching, thanks to her grandmother and her great skills with the piano. Consequently, Angelou grew up with a deep grasp and appreciation of her roots and the ways in which she could tap into them for wisdom and strength.

In the wake of an intense work ethic the family embraced and the strong familial bonds they formed, the process of organizing and supporting one another was key.Angelou’s brother was sent out to make money and send it back to the family, sometimes through illegal means such as bootlegging.Angelou’s grandmother was known to provide safe makeshift housing in her home for members of the community.

Family life while difficult, was not bereft of humor. Angelou’s stepfather told lovingly teasing words and stories that offered teasing and laughter. Angelou’s brother was an imaginative storyteller and their mother was known for making up rhymes about their family members. All in all, the family was close and their hardships seemed to bring them closer together.

The home life of Maya Angelou was far from perfect but rife with love, a very rich African-American heritage and values. The close ties and strong bonds between family members was in no doubt a major factor in forging Angelou’s resilience and strength.

Creativity was encouraged in Angelou’s family life

Contrary to the family’s struggles, creativity was encouraged and celebrated. Angelou’s grandmother taught her to sew and bake, nourishing her creativity and inventiveness. Active engagement with the church provided access to music, both sacred and secular, while her brother’s storytelling skills enticed Angelou to explore her own imagination and invent tales of her own. For Maya Angelou, family life provided an outlet to aspire and to use her own creativity.

Even in the mist of a oftentimes trying family life, Angelou was able to deduce lessons and values that helped emerge into adulthood and become one of the most respected and beloved figures of our time. Writing poetry, reciting poetry and performing on Broadway were all viable paths of expression for the budding artist. While often overlooked, her tight-knit family and the African-American culture that surrounded her undoubtedly played a role in Angelou’s determination to express herself and seek her rightful place in the world.

Continuing in this vein, Angelou wanted people to identify as members of a supportive community, expressing a common love for one another despite the challenges that may arise. Angelou’s family life certainly provided her the necessary platform to develop her skills in diplomacy and nurture a deep level of understanding in general.

Family Face Uphill Battles Growing Up

Many of the challenges faced by Angelou and her family impacted every aspect of their lives. During the Great Depression, Angelou’s family moved around constantly due to economic woes and lack of employment opportunities. As a result, owning a home was difficult and illnesses often posed additional difficulties due to lack of access to medical care.

In addition to the struggle of living in a time of economic and racial hardship, Angelou and her family faced other obstacles. They endured emotional struggles and familial discord, which compounded the already difficult and often unpredictable days. In Angelou’s own words, when black people failed to make something for themselves, ”they believed it was proof of a permanent inferiority to whites”. A sense of self worth, passion for life and resilience nonetheless still had a prominent place within the family.

For Angelou, the potential for growth resided within her family life. Her grandmother, her mother, her stepfather and her brother, were all essential ingredients in her transformation and navigation of a carefully sculpted and ever-changing life.

Angelou grew up learning how to face challenges with creativity and ingenuity and use them as a tool to build herself up. A firm belief in her own abilities and the unique strengths of each individual family member enabled the family to face the uphill battles, enabling Angelou to further develop her outstanding skills as a writer, performer and advocate for women and minorities.

Angelou Rose Above Her Own Challenges

The daily struggles that were part and parcel of Angelou’s life also became part of her story, as she wrote autobiography of incredibly vivid detail, that explored the heartache, sadness and dark secrets of her life, such as her childhood raped at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. True to the trope of emerging triumphant, Angelou traveled the world, becoming a renowned singer, dancer, and actress, lecturing, advocating and developing a wide net of friends and supporters.

Angelou used her family’s story and hardships as a platform, rising above her own life experiences, to inform and shape her work, as a prominent figure of activism, inspiration and courage. She used her words to speak her truth, allowing her classmates and audiences around the world to unlock their own stories, and to remember that despite the obstacles that come our way, our greatness is a choice.

The Rapid Changes of Angelou’s Family Life

The sudden changes which took place in Angelou’s family’s life soon enough defined Angelou’s childhood. From family moves, sickness and illnesses, financial hardships and social discrimination, Angelou’s family life was filled with traumatic events that inevitably shaped Angelou’s understanding of the world and the way she moved within her own family.

Innovative solutions were often necessary and Angelou’s family embraced her nonconforming views, encouraging her to think freely and make her own decisions. Her encouraging family life meant that Angelou knew that she could always count on her family regardless of the situation. This enabled her to develop a deep sense of certainty that she could always trust in her own family’s love and unconditional support.

Navigating her way through the the ever-changing family life, Angelou succeeded in remaining open-minded and creating a safe environment in which she could make her own choices and voice her own views. She was able to cultivate a sound understanding of what was possible and build a structure of support that stayed with her throughout her life.

Despite the constant changes, Angelou’s family life was of course filled with moments of joy, love and care. Warm goodbyes, meaningful reunions and milestone events like birthdays are just a few examples of the moments Angelou treasured with her family.

Angelou’s a Legacy that Blessed Countless Lives

Harnessing the wealth of knowledge that was galvanized by her upbringing, Angelou eventually used her literary genius to bring her story onto paper. Through her words, she offered insight, knowledge and comfort to countless lives that were deeply affected by her work.

Angelou’s life was both a testament to courage and a reminder of the rough path that still impeded on racial, social and gender equity.Her steadfast advocacy of those who experience injustice, coupled with her unwavering commitment to the pursuit of civil rights and social causes, is still remembered fondly today.

Angelou’s case is an example of a childhood spent in adversity ultimately shaping a hopeful, purposeful and rewarding adulthood. Angelou’s family life may have been tough and riddled with obstacles, yet it also provided her with her own unique set of strengths and scopes for breaking boundaries and overcoming adversity.

By leaning on her family’s unwavering faith and determination, Angelou embraced her remarkable destiny, and made it her life’s work to inspire, challenge, and uplift others.

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