When Is Maya Angelou Born

Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. Her birth name was Marguerite Annie Johnson. Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and later moved to San Francisco at the age of fourteen. Maya Angelou was, and continues to be, a highly acclaimed poet, novelist, actress, and civil rights activist, amongst many other things. She is one of the first African-American women to arguably become an international icon and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2011.

Angelou began her writing career as a columnist for the Sentinel Magazine in 1981 and went on to achieve tremendous success in the literary world. She has authored seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry; her most famous being “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1970). Angelou’s writing was heavily influenced by her own life experiences; poverty, racism, and trauma. Throughout her work, she masterfully conveys the brutality of the oppression that African Americans suffered throughout the Jim Crow era; and highlights the importance of self-confidence and resilience.

Maya Angelou was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, and in 1968, acted as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); a civil rights organization headed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was also active in a number of other social justice movements throughout her life. Her activism included the Women’s Movement and the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to name a few.

Maya Angelou was a widely celebrated and beloved figure. She was the recipient of numerous awards, honorary degrees, and academic recognitions. Angelou was beloved not only by those in the United States, but around the world. She was a highly respected figure in the literary, civil rights, and social justice communities.

Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was laid to rest in the town of her birth. The legacy that she leaves behind will live on in her writings and the positive change that she spurred in the hearts of many.

Early Life

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents, Bailey Johnson, an equally successful dietitian, and Vivian Baxter Johnson separated soon after her birth. At the age of three, Angelou joined her brother Bailey and mother in Stamps, Arkansas, where she was raised by her grandmother, Annie Henderson. In her childhood, Angelou was exposed to the harsh realities of racism, poverty, and trauma. She often recounts painful experiences with the Jim Crow Laws in her autobiographical writings.

Angelou was well educated, attending a number of black schools in Arkansas and attending George Washington High School in San Francisco at the age of fourteen. Afterward, she married an ex-sailor, Tosh Angelos in 1951, against the will of her mother. She moved with her husband to New York a year later and was employed as a cook, waitress, and entertainer.

Although Angelou and her husband were eventually divorced, she kept his last name, “Angelou” and kept the initial “A” of her first name, “Marguerite”, to become known henceforth as “Maya”. In 1953, Angelou again moved, this time to Cairo, Egypt. She traveled to Ghana three years later and worked as the associate editor for The Arab Observer.

Civil Rights Activism

Maya Angelou was a powerful presence in the civil rights movement. Although her career was just beginning, she was already deeply involved in various social justice causes. She sought to use her experiences to empower and advocate for the black community.

In 1968, Angelou served as the Northern Coordinator for SCLC. She was also heavily involved with the anti-apartheid movement, traveling to South Africa and Ghana with the organization Artists for Human Rights. She was also the first female ordained in her church, the Calvary Baptist Church in 1989.

In 1993, Angelou was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a poem that would be read at his inauguration. She wrote the poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” which was also released as a book. This was a historic moment for Angelou, as she was the first poet to read a non-religious poem at an inauguration.

In 2008, Angelou served as the narrator for the documentary television series “America in Primetime,” which focused on the lives of Americans; shedding light on the effects of racism and injustice in their lives. She was also actively involved in a number of other social justice organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Angelou was a highly respected figure in the literary, civil rights, and social justice communities. She was awarded over thirty honorary degrees, numerous awards, and recognitions throughout her lifetime.

In 1991, Angelou’s literacy memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was awarded the National Book Award for Nonfiction. In 1995, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Arts and was later inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1996.

In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. This was a historic moment for Angelou, as she was only the fourth African-American woman to be honored with this award. In 2014, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

At her death in 2014, Angelou was widely remembered for her powerful activism and prose. Her legacy will live on forever in the hearts of many, including the countless people she helped to empower.

Writing Career

Angelou began her writing career in the early eighties. She authored seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. Her work was heavily inspired by her own life.

Angelou’s poetry was clever, insightful, and deeply moving. “In Her Own Words” (1981) and “Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die” (1991) were met with huge success and are amongst her most renowned works of poetry.

Angelou was the first African-American woman to have an autobiographical work published, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1970). This work not only catapulted her career but also opened doors for generations of writers that followed.

Angelou has also been tremendously successful in the world of filmmaking. She starred as Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the ABC miniseries “Roots” (1977). She also released the single “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” (1983) and starred in a number of other television shows and movies including “Georgia, Georgia” (1972).

At her death in 2014, Angelou was widely recognized and revered as an international icon. Her writings have been credited with helping to bring attention to issues of racism and oppression.


As a prominent civil rights activist, Angelou had long been a powerful voice in the struggle for justice. As mentioned earlier, she was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, specifically the SCLC. She was also an active member of the NAACP, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and the Women’s Movement.

In 1993, Angelou helped to launch the “African-American Women for Women’s Health Initiative” with C. Delores Tucker. The program created free mammogram screenings for low-income women and served as a catalyst for other health initiatives throughout the country.

Angelou was unconditionally supportive of the LGBTQ community, and made a point to include them during her public appearances and activism. In an interview with The Advocate magazine in 1994, she voiced her support for gay rights and made a case against discrimination and inequality.

In 2008, Angelou was honored with the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and Outstanding Literary Work in Nonfiction. In 2009, she received the Langston Hughes Medal from the City College of New York.

In 2012, Angelou appeared in a television special, “Valentine’s Day with Maya Angelou” to assist in raising funds for the Children’s Defense Fund. She also teamed up with the National Women’s History Project and Library of Congress to launch a month-long celebration of women’s history emphasis.

Final Years

Maya Angelou continued to be an influential and inspirational voice in the civil rights, literary, and social justice communities until her death on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86.

In 2009 and 2010, Angelou was celebrated with a series of tributes and awards, including the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Harvard University and a Lifetime Achievement Award form the Poetry Society of America.

The last three books that Angelou wrote were “Mom & Me & Mom” (2013), “Letter To My Daughter” (2010), and “A Song Flung Up to Heaven” (2002).

Angelou’s works have been praised for their unflinching honesty and lyrical beauty. She was an incredible figure who dedicated her life to advocating for peace and justice. She will never be forgotten and will continue to be celebrated and remembered for generations to come.

In June of 2014, Maya Angelou was laid to rest in the town of her birth. Her memorial service was attended by a legion of loyal fans, admirers, and friends, including former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.


The legacy that Maya Angelou leaves behind is a testament to her amazing life, works, and activism. She was a voice of resilience, strength, and courage. Her words served to not only bring attention to the ongoing struggle for justice and freedom, but also to bring people together in love, harmony, and understanding.

After her death, Angelou’s close friend, Oprah Winfrey accurately described her as “a rainbow in our clouds.” She is remembered for her unwavering commitment to justice and her ability to convey its importance through her works.

Maya Angelou has been inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Voice of Poets Association, and the NAACP Hall of Fame. In 2017, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2020, Google honored her legacy with a Doodle on her 92nd birthday. An annual celebration of her life, “O Happy Maya!” is held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Maya Angelou was, and continues to be, an influential and beloved figure in the African-American community, in the literary world, and beyond. Her words and deeds will be forever remembered and celebrated.

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.

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