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Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an internationally acclaimed African American author, poet, actress, dancer and civil rights activist. She was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She had a rough childhood and was sent to live with her grandparents after her own parents’ divorce. At the age of 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was then killed by her uncles in revenge. The incident left her so shaken that she withdrew into herself and didn’t speak a word for years. Other than that, early memories of racial discrimination also left her disturbed and confused.

Angelou won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School in San Francisco. A brief high school relationship left her pregnant, and she gave birth to her only child at the age of 16. She had to hold a number of petty jobs in order to support herself and the baby. At the age of 24, she wed a Greek man named Anastasios Angelopulos. Interracial marriages were not common at the time and the match was frowned upon by her family, especially her mother. During the 1950s, Angelou made her name as an actress. Her first major role was in Porgy and Bess, and she toured Europe with the production company for this performance. She also trained as a modern dancer with the renowned American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, and had a TV performance with Alvin Ailey.

Angelou’s marriage ended in 1954, and she began dancing professionally in clubs such as the Purple Onion in San Francisco. Here she danced to calypso music and recorded her first album titled “Miss Calypso”. She also changed her name by adopting her husband’s last name and her own childhood nickname, because the name “Maya Angelou” was more distinctive and memorable. In 1959, she moved to New York to focus on writing and joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild. She also met Martin Luther King Jr. and organized a show called “Cabaret for Freedom” to help raise funds for his cause. In 1961, she began dating a South African freedom fighter named Vusumzi Make, and

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