Mary Angleou_wl (1)

An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood’s first female black director, but is most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Angelou’s most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), deals with her early years, where she lived with her brother and paternal grandmother. In one of its most evocative (and controversial) moments, Angelou describes how she was first cuddled then raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was just seven years old. When the man was murdered by her uncles for his crime, Angelou felt responsible, and stopped talking. Angelou remained mute for five years, but developed a love for language. She read black authors like Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, as well as canonical works by William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Poe. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community. She died in 2014 at the age of 86.

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