Maya Angelou married her first husband, Tosh Angelos, in 1951, at the age of 17. Angelos was a Greek-American sailor and she had only known him for three weeks prior. Angelou was forced to end her pregnancy in order to marry Angelos and start a family, resulting in a miscarriage. Angelos and Angelou separated in 1954, and eventually divorced in1957. Angelou explained their divorce in a 1957 issue of an African-American women’s magazine, “I realized that I had a choice. I could become a prostitute, I could become dependent, or I could refuse to be satisfied with anything less than dignity—and that’s what I did.”
Angelou went on to marry Vietnamese photojournalist, Paul du Feu, in 1973. They met when du Feu was a visiting professor at her college in California. Angelou and du Feu were together for two-years but never had children. Angelou remarked on their relationship in a 1979 interview, “we grew in our directions, not apart. I can say with deep admiration for him, that he was a strong person who was patient and good to me.” Angelou described her relationship with du Feu as “good and kind, but uneventful.”
Following her marriage to du Feu, Angelou went on to marry actor, film director, and civil activist, Bill Bryan, in 1981. Angelou and Bryan would remain together until his death in 2014. They had adopted Angelou’s grandson, Colin Ashanti Murphy-Johnson, together. Angelou stated in an interview with CNN in 2006 that she and Bryan “set out to live our marriage very consciously. We talked much. We respected each other’s privacy. We both made a commitment to support each other in anything that would enhance our well-being. We tried to grow as individuals while maintaining our bond.”
Maya Angelou and Her Failed Relationship with Tosh Angelos
At the tender age of 17, Maya Angelou married Greek-American sailor, Tosh Angelos. This was in 1951, and although Angelou had only known Angelos for three weeks, the two decided to get married. Angelou was forced to end her pregnancy in order to marry Angelos, resulting in a miscarriage. Angelou would go on to end the marriage in 1957 and explained the circumstances of the divorce in an African-American women’s magazine, explaining her decision to seek dignity, as opposed to further relying on Angelos or turning to prostitution in order to survive. Angelou also remarked in a 1979 interview that she and Angelos had grown in different directions in the marriage, eventually leading to its end.
Maya Angelou and Her Marriage to Paul du Feu
In the wake of Maya Angelou’s failed relationship with Angelos, she would meet Congolese photojournalist and visiting professor, Paul du Feu. The two would marry in 1973, but du Feu and Angelou were together for only two years before their divorce. During her 1979 interview, Angelou applauded du Feu for his patience and kindness towards her, while emphasizing that the relationship was ultimately uneventful. Still, she held a deep admiration for du Feu, who was a strong and patient presence in her life.
Maya Angelou and Her Marriage to Bill Bryan
Finally, in 1981 Angelou married civil activist, actor, and film director, Bill Bryan. The couple would remain together until his death in 2014. They had adopted Angelou’s grandson, Colin Ashanti Murphy-Johnson, together. Angelou was proud of her marriage to Bryan and spoke about finding a balance between staying true to oneself and fulfilling one’s commitments in a 2006 interview. She also shared that the two talked frequently, respected each other’s privacy, and worked hard to support each other in any endeavor that would enhance their well-being.
The Legacy of Maya Angelou’s Marriages
The trials and tribulations of Maya Angelou’s marriages left a powerful mark in the annals of African-American history. Angelou’s attempt to seek dignity in the wake of her difficult marriage to Tosh Angelos set a strong example of relying not on others for survival, but on oneself. Her brief marriage to Paul du Feu, however, taught us the important lesson of holding deep admiration for those we carry in our lives, while still respecting our own journeys. Finally, Angelou’s marriage to Bill Bryan exemplifies the value of staying true to oneself, being communicative with one’s spouse, and giving mutual support to behold the benefits of marriage.
The Impact of Maya Angelou’s Marriages on Her Writing
Maya Angelou’s difficult and varied marriages resulted in a lifetime of powerful writing that continues to reverberate through society today. The voice, wisdom, and perspective she developed throughout her marriages allowed her to write without fear and truly explore and express her emotions on a deeper level. As a result, Angelou’s writing continues to challenge and shape the pervasive narrations and social norms found in society.
The Influence of Maya Angelou’s Marriages on the Women’s Movement
In her marriages, Maya Angelou challenged the idea of what a woman could be, and the question of whether a woman must remain in a marriage in the face of extreme difficulties. Her decisions to not accept any less than dignity in her marriage to Angelos and to move forward on her own path with Paul du Feu empowered other African-American women to do the same. Therefore, Angelou’s marriages played an important role in the women’s movement, as she broke through societal standards to ultimately lead a life that was a better reflection of her values.
The Empowerment of Maya Angelou’s Marriages
Throughout her marriages, Maya Angelou was a powerful figure of both strength and empathy. Her focus on herself, along with her respect for the journeys of her spouses, strongly embodied female empowerment throughout the decades she chose to be married. This self-empowerment provided an example for all women of respecting both others and oneself in order to find success in marriage and in life.