Where Was Maya Angelou Educated

Maya Angelou was an acclaimed poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist. She had a remarkable life filled with many accomplishments and accolades. But, her successes didn’t appear overnight. Before becoming a famous writer, she attended several schools, which allowed her to become an educated person. Where was Maya Angelou educated?

Maya Angelou was educated in a number of places. At the age of 8, she was sent to St. Louis, Missouri to live with her grandmother. It was here where she attended George Washington Carver High School, the only black high school in the area. After graduating in 1945, she briefly attended the California Labor School and then Lorraine Hansberry’s New York City-based school, The Harlem Writers Workshop. After her time at these schools, she eventually achieved a scholarship for a BA in drama. She attended the University of California-Berkeley, but decided against completing her degree.

Angelou also received an honorary residency in 1964 from the University of Ghana Legon. During this time, she was a mentor to the many students of Ghana. Here, she taught literature, philosophy, and music. She also lectured in many other countries including Egypt, Egypt, India and Jamaica with her friend, Bill Russell. Additionally, she attended Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she was given an Honorary Doctorate degree in 1996.

Angelou was undoubtedly an autodidact with her sharp intellect, wit and charisma. She had an excellent memory, which enabled her to easily memorize her speeches and recite them with confidence and passion. Additionally, she learned about the civil rights struggles from the well-known figures at her grandmother’s church — something that Angelou stated helped her develop her political consciousness.

Maya Angelou was an educated person and her educational background was varied and widespread. Ultimately, however, she was an autodidact with an unparalleled understanding of the difficulties that came with being a black woman in America. It was her strength and resilience that she gained through her educational experiences that made her the influential voice that she was.


Maya Angelou was originally sent to St. Louis, Missouri at the age of 8 to live with her grandmother. This is where she started her educational journey. It was here that she enrolled in George Washington Carver High School, the only black high school in St. Louis at the time. Angelou learnt a great deal throughout her high school experience. She encountered many civil rights activists who taught her about the struggles of the African American community. This helped cultivate her political awareness and contributed to the understanding of herself and the world around her.

At the age of 17, Angelou graduated from George Washington Carver High School and moved to San Francisco, California. She quickly enrolled in the California Labor School, a left-wing progressive school for working adults, which taught about the highly politicised labor movement. After completing this course, she moved to New York City and enrolled in The Harlem Writer’s Workshop, a college-level writing class ran by Lorraine Hansberry. This is where she deeply honed her writing skills and developed her craft.

University Scholarship

At the age of 21, Maya Angelou was granted a scholarship to San Francisco State College and started studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama. During this time she worked as a telephone operator and a waitress to support herself. She was an ardent learner in her studies at college and was offered the role of the college’s first assistant administrator. However, Angelou discontinued her degree at San Francisco State College, believing that new opportunities and knowledge were to be found outside of the University.

Angelou continued to broaden her knowledge outside of higher education. She worked as a journalist for the African Review in Cairo and as an associate editor for The Arab Observer in Ghana. Both of these roles provided Angelou with a variety of experiences, from interviewing African Heads of State to seeing first-hand the effects of poverty and inequality. Without formal qualifications, Angelou was accepted for residencies at many universities, including the University of Ghana Legon. Here, she was a mentor to many students and taught a variety of topics such as literature, philosophy, and music.

Honorary Degrees

Maya Angelou was awarded many honorary degrees throughout her life. This includes an honorary doctorate degree in literature and philosophy from the University of Ghana Legon in 1964. She was later vested with a Doctorate in Humane Letters by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Doctor of Laws degrees from Tuskegee Institute, Yale University and Wake Forest University.

Angelou was also granted many honors including an NAACP Image Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal and 12 honorary publications, including ones from Harvard, Duke, Oxford and Rutgers. Angelou accepted a degree from Montclair State University and Rutgers University thanked her in her speech. These many awards and honorary degrees are a testament to the incredible figure that Maya Angelou was, and the respect she received for her activism and literary works.

Integrate Learning

Experiences from Angelou’s childhood, her educational experiences and her life as an adult are highly integral to her works. Her book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is a memoir based on the hardships of life as a black woman. It touched upon topics such as race, identity, family, and religion. It shares the struggles of civil rights and racism in America. She draws upon the experiences of growing up in the segregated Southern United States and her understanding of religion acquired through her grandmother’s church.

This influence of her upbringing and education was clear when she wrote poems. One of her most famous poems, On the Pulse of Morning, was recited at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. She also wrote poems about global peace issues, such as Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman. Her works always drew upon her educational background, her understanding of the civil rights struggles, and her own experiences.


The wisdom, suffering and joy that Maya Angelou experienced throughout her life was an immense contributor to her literary works. She was not only versed in literature, philosophy, and music due to her educational pursuits — she was an integral analyzer of the social issues of the world and a passionate adapter of the struggles that black women face each day.

Angelou’s educational pursuits and her lifelong journey of learning undoubtedly shaped her identity, knowledge and her craft. As a figure, Maya Angelou was an exceptional example of education, resilience, and strength — traits that embedded themselves in her writings and propelled her to becoming the influential figure of her time.

Writing Career

Alongside her work in civil rights, Angelou was a world-renowned poet and author. Angelou wrote a variety of books, essays, and poems throughout her life, which were highly revered and critiqued. When she wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, it was highly controversial as it depicted the difficult life of a young black girl coming of age in the segregated Southern states. It has since been recognised as one of the most important books of the 20th century and is often taught in the school curriculum in the United States.

It was with the help of her educational background, familial life and personal experiences that she was able to articulate her creative works. Through her writing, she highlighted the civil rights struggles, racism, identity and the human experience.


Maya Angelou had a diverse educational background, from high school at George Washington Carver High School to the University of California-Berkeley. Her education was a combination of formal schooling and her own autodidacticism. Angelou was an incredibly influential figure of the 20th century, with her works highlighting the civil rights struggles, racism, identity and the human experience. It is her strength and resilience that she gained through her educational experiences that made her the influential voice that she was.

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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