artistic creativity for life lives
Kobina "Byo" Annan,
June 06, 2014
Maya Angelou born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4,1928
was an American author, poet, dancer, and singer. She
autobiographies, three books of essays, and several
books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays,
movies, and television
shows spanning more than 50 years. She received dozens
of awards and over 30 honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou
is best known for her series of seven autobiographies,
which focus on her childhood and early experiences. The
first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of
her early life up to the age of seven and brought her
international recognition and acclaim.
She became a poet and writer after a series of
occupations as a young adult, including fry cook,
prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer,
cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess,
coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during
the days of decolonization. From 1982, she taught
at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North
Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds
Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the
Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther
King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a
year on the lecture circuit, something she continued
into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "
On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at President Bill
Clinton's inauguration, making her the first poet to
make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John
F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
With the publication of I Know Why Caged Bird Sings,
Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life.
She was respected as a spokesperson of black people and
women, and her works have been considered a defense of
Black culture. Attempts have been made to ban her books
from US libraries, but her works are widely used in
schools and universities worldwide. Angelou's major
works have a been labeled as autobiographical fiction,
but many critics have characterized them as
autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to
challenge the common structure of the autobiography by
critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books
center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and
From 1962 to 1965 Maya Angelou lived in Ghana. She
became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and
was active in the African-American
expatriate community. She was a feature editor
for The African Review, a freelance writer for the
Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana, and
worked and performed for Ghana's National Theatre. In
Accra, she became close friends with Malcolm X during
his visit in the early 1960s.
Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a
new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-
American Unity, he was assassinated shortly afterward.
Angelou continued with her efforts to uplift African and
African American culture through her poems, theatrical
performances, movies, books....
Angelou died on the morning of May 28, 2014. She was
found by her nurse. Although she had reportedly been in
poor health and canceled recent scheduled appearances,
she was working on another book, an autobiography about
her experiences with national and world leaders.
Tributes to Angelou and condolences were paid by
artists, entertainers, and world leaders including
President Barack Obama.
On May 29, 2014, Mount Zion Bapist Church in Winston-
Salem, of which Angelou was a member for 30 years, held
a public memorial service to her.
May your legacy continue to have tremendous impact on
the youth and our future.
New York, New York