A Brief Timeline of the Truly Inspiring Life of Maya Angelou


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Maya Angelou addressing people.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

―Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a renowned poet, dancer, film and television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor, and civil rights activist. She was always recognized as an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Her poems inspired everyone, because she emphasized on looking to the future with hope and courage. Separation from her mom at a young age did not destroy her passion for life and her ability to find the pleasure in daily routine at Stamps, Arkansas.

Maya Angelou life was all about various struggles and obstacles, and how she overcame all of them to fight for what was right and lead a life according to her own terms. The timeline of Maya Angelou here would describe a young African-American woman’s discovery of self-confidence.

Timeline of Maya Angelou’s Life

1928

Maya Angelou, originally known as Marguerite Ann Johnson was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She was the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a nurse and card dealer.

Her elder brother named her Maya, which was his interpretation of ‘My Sister’.

1931

Her parents, Vivian and Bailey got separated, and Maya and her brother were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with her paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, who was a prosperous lady, which was quite contrary to most African-Americans of those times.

1935

Her dad suddenly showed up in Stamps, and they were returned to their mother in St. Louis.

1937

Unfortunately, Maya was sexually abused. Her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman raped her. Maya was highly shocked and she became dumb. Both the children were sent back to their grandmother once again.

1941

Maya and her brother returned to San Francisco to live with their mother, where she attended the George Washington High School. She studied drama and dance on a scholarship at the California Labor School.

1942

At school, one of her teachers, Bertha Flowers, took special care of her and helped her to talk again and increased her interest in literature.

She dropped out of school to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor, while she was still in her teenage.

1943

Maya returned to high school, but she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, named Guy.

She left her home to bring up her son as a single mother, working as a cook and waitress.

1952

She married a Greek sailor namely Tosh Angelos. However, her marriage ended soon.

She started her career as a nightclub singer. During this period, she was recognized by her stage name, Maya Angelou.

1954

Maya toured with the opera Porgy and Bess.

1957

She recorded her first album, ‘Calypso Lady’.

She performed in an off-Broadway play, ‘Calypso Heat Wave’.

1958

Maya developed her skills in writing poetry and moved to New York. She joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild in New York.

1959

Maya got involved with the Civil Rights activists. She became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1960

She met Vusumzi Make, a South African Civil Rights activist. Both of them, along with Guy, moved to Cairo, Egypt, in 1960. In Cairo, she worked as an editor of The Arab Observer, a weekly magazine published in English.

1963

Maya moved to Ghana and worked for the University of Ghana as an assistant administrator.

1964

Maya Angelou returned to America in order to help Malcolm X build his new venture, the Organization of African-American Unity.

1968

Malcolm X was assassinated. Maya started working on her autobiographical book ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’.

1970

Her Autobiographical book was published. It turned out to be a big success.

1972

Georgia, Georgia, whose screenplay was written my Maya, becomes the first movie to be filmed in which the screenplay had been written by an African-American woman.

1973

Maya married Paul du Feu and both moved to Sonoma, California, along with her son. Then she worked on her writing and acting.

1974

Her book ‘Gather Together in My Name’ was published.

1976

Her book Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas was published.

1981

Her famous book ‘The Heart of a Woman’ was published. In the same year, she divorced Paul du Feu.

1984

Maya met well-known television personality Oprah Winfrey. They got along really well, and Maya became her mentor and friend.

1986

‘All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes’ was published.

1993

Maya read her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration ceremony of President Bill Clinton.

2002

Her book ‘A Song Flung Up to Heaven’ was published.

2009

Following the death of Michael Jackson, Maya wrote a poem in his honor, which was read by Queen Latifah at his memorial.

2014

On the morning of May 28, 2014, Maya passed away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

List of Awards

1970

Maya received the Chubb Fellowship Award, Yale University.

1972

She received the Pulitzer Prize nomination for ‘Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie’.

1976

Received the Ladies’ Home Journal Award (Woman of the Year in communication).

1977

Received the Golden Eagle Award, Afro-American in the Arts.

1986

Maya won the Fulbright Program 40th Anniversary Distinguished Lecturer Award.

1991

The Langston Hughes Medal was offered to Maya Angelou.

1993

Maya won the prestigious Grammy Award for ‘Best Spoken Word Album’ ‘On The Pulse of Morning’.

1996

Maya was offered the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Association National Award.

2006

Maya Angelou received the Mother Teresa Award. In the same year, she hosted a weekly radio talk show for the first time for XM Satellite Radio’s Oprah & Friends channel.

2008

Maya Angelou was the first recipient of the Hope for Peace and Justice Voice of Peace Award.

2011

Maya was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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