Maya Angelou Biography

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“Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.” (Online - White House). This memorial statement, by Barack Obama in 2014, encompasses how many felt towards Maya Angelou, one of the most influential writers and voices of her generation. Over the course of her lifetime, Maya Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees and received the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Angelou’s personal admiration and self-love that is reflected in her poetic works, specifically, “Phenomenal Woman,” is credited to the overcoming of her traumatic childhood and her work in activism.
Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson, lived through an unstable early life. She was born in St. Louis, Arkansas, but moved away to Stamps, Arkansas at age three due to her parents’ divorce. There, Angelou lived with her brother, Bailey, and her paternal grandmother (Galenet - Self and a Song of Freedom in the Southern Tradition). As discussed in her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, seven-year old Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The man was consequently murdered by her uncles, and Maya, feeling responsible for his death, ceased talking and remained speechless for five years. It was during this time of silence that Angelou established her love of literature (Online - Poetry Foundation). The horribly unfortunate events in
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