Maya Angelou 1928-2014


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Maya Angelou April 4, 1928--May 28, 2014

The very definition of what it means to be strong--not perfect, not without mistakes--strong, which means she persevered when it would have been easier to lie down and give up.

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Maya Angelou 1928-2014

  1. 1. A Short Guide to Maya Angelou "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat" --I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  2. 2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings -Maya Angelou The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedomThe free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.
  3. 3. The Early Years Maya Angelou • Born to Vivian and Bailey Johnson St Louis, MO on April 4, 1928 • Given name: Marguerite Ann Johnson • Lived with her Grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas until she was twelve years old. Of Stamps, Angelou said, “ . . . the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like.” (Angelou) Maya Angelou age 9
  4. 4. Adolescence and Vivian Johnson When she was twelve Maya and her brother, Bailey were sent north to live with her mother, Vivian. • Maya said of Vivian that she was a “terrible parent for small children, but wonderful for teenagers.” • She challenged her children to take risks. and to find their own way. Morever, she supported them whether they succeeded or failed. • With Vivian’s encouragement Maya (always sure she was too tall, too graceless, and too homely) took dancing and singing lessons. • At sixteen Maya applied for a position as conductor on a trolley car. She knew blacks were not usually hired for this position. She had to sue to get them to hire her. • At seventeen, Maya got pregnant, but kept it a secret from her family until after she graduated from high school. With Vivian’s support, she continued to work multiple jobs, act, sing, and dance in various dance troupes and in plays. During these years she began to write poetry and plays.
  5. 5. Adulthood and Marriage Maya Angelou was married twice—the first time to a Greek sailor whose last name became the foundation for the one she is now known by. Her second marriage was to an activist with whom she did much of her traveling. She wore a lot of hats before she began writing in earnest. Just a few of them: • A street car conductor • Waitress and cook • Madam of a brothel • Actress in the off-Broadway hit “Porgy and Bess” • Co-wrote, directed, sang and acted in in an off- Broadway hit Calypso Heat Wave • Was the editor of a newspaper in Cairo Egypt • Taught music at Ghana’s School of Music and Drama • She was a contemporary of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr—aiding in both men’s organizations at their request.
  6. 6. Formative Experiences • At the age of seven, Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She didn’t speak for six years. During those years reading became a safe haven and she inhaled literature and poetry. • Maya was raised by formidable women—who held positions of power within their family and community. • At the age of fifteen, Maya spent a month living in a junk yard with homeless teens and was profoundly changed by it. Odd that the homeless children, the silt of the war frenzy, could initiate me into the brotherhood of man . . . The lack of criticism of our ad hoc community influenced me, and set a tone of tolerance for the rest of my life. --I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
  7. 7. Early Work and the Critical Response I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969 by Random House • In her first work, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Angelou relays what it was like to be an African American girl growing up in the 1930s. In this autobiography she touches on such taboo subjects as child rape, the effects of segregation, and teen pregnancy. • It was the first book written by an African American woman to make the New York Best Seller’s List and it remained there for three years. • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings won the National Book Award as well as international acclaim, garnering the attention of professors and teachers as well as famous reviewers. • Because of the controversial subject matter it is among the most frequently banned books in the US, joining the ranks of works by Sylvia Plath, John Irving, and Mark Twain. • Caged Bird broke the glass ceiling for female African American writers. Other authors such as Toni Morrison (author of The Bluest Eye) and Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) were able to publish work that had previously been ignored and rejected by editors and agents.
  8. 8. Poetry Angelou’s 2nd book, was a collection of poetry. Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie and published in 1971 by Random House, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize later on that year. Even with that acclaim her work met with mixed reviews, with on reviewer calling it schlock (good for the masses—not so much “serious” readers of poetry) and another raving about her use of lyrical language. All together, she’s published sixteen volumes of poetry. • Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975) • And Still I Rise (1978) • Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? (1983) • Poems (1986) • Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987) • I Shall Not Be Moved (1990) • On the Pulse of Morning (1993) • The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994) • Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (1995). • A Brave and Startling Truth (1995) • From a Black Woman to a Black Man (1995) • Amazing Peace (2005) • Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me (2006) • Celebrations, Rituals of Peace and Prayer (2006) • Poetry for Young People (2007) • We Had Him 2009
  9. 9. Autobiographies Despite the fact that she defines herself as a poet and playwright, Maya is best known for her seven award winning autobiographies. According to Maya she wrote Caged Bird in response to a challenge from her editor, Robert Loomis, who said that it was impossible to write an autobiography that was also literary. • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) • Gather Together in My Name (1974) • Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976) • The Heart of a Woman (1981) • All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) • A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002) • Mom & Me & Mom (2013) Maya Angelou and James Baldwin Who Maya credits with having encouraged her to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes
  10. 10. Maya Angelou Now At 85 years old Maya Angelou continues to write, travel, and teach. She recently released her seventh book, entitled Mom & Me & Mom , yet another Times Best Seller. This one is about her mother. She remains a Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
  11. 11. Sources Angelou, Maya. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969. Print. —. Maya Angelou: my terrible, wonderful mother. 29 March 2013. Web. 1 July 2013. —. Poem Hunter. 3 January 2013. Web. 1 July 2013. Banned Books Awareness: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 30 October 2011. Web. 1 July 2013. Maya Angelou Global Renaissance Woman. 2013. Web. 1 July 2013. McMurry, Myra K. "Association Role-Playing as Art in Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird"." South Atlantic Bulletin Vol. 41 .No. 2 (1976): 106-111. Print. Northover, Alice. Women in Literature: Maya Angelou. 28 September 2006. Web. 1 July 2013. Plimpton, George. Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119. 1990. Web. 1 July 2013. Walker, Perrie A. "Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and Form in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." College Literature October 1995: 91-108. Print. Mary Paddock Instructor: Lori Rogers ENG380-899-Su13 July 3, 2013