Maya Angelou is a phenomenal woman. She was born into a devastating decade, that suffered numerous tragedies. Not only had society shaped her as a woman, she has also shaped our society and influenced many lives. She is still living today, yet I believe her legend will never die. Furthermore I will share with you what motivated her and some of her gratifying experiences. How she was effected by society, and what she did about it. Also how the time period she was born into made her the extraordinary woman she is today.
Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, a year before the crash of 29 (the stock market crash). To get a sense of what exactly Maya was born into, I will explain what exactly this meant. This was the start of the depression, a nation wide economic tragedy that lasted until the late 1930’s. The effects varied, but everyone suffered. By 1933, nearly one quarter of the workforce had been laid off. By 1934, two fifths of home owners lost their houses, and New York listed 100 deaths from starvation. About 37% of American had irregular eating habits, and generally did not get three meals a day. Only about 8% were getting only one meal a day, and this was not stolid food. Day after day, people lived off of bread, potatoes, macaroni, spaghetti, canned soups and thin gravy. Meat and vegetables were rarely served. A common response, often heard, when children were asked if they had eaten today was ‘No, this is my sisters’ day to eat.’;
In 1937 the Ohio river burst it’s banks and killed over 250 people and ruined many livelihoods. Between 1933 and 1934 huge dust storms swept through country after country picking up tons of patched soil, 514,000 farm workers lost there jobs because of this. Stamps, Arkansas slowly came into the depression, and slowly came out of it. They did not even know of the depression until the early 30’s
Maya Angelou born April 4, 1928, was born in St. Louis, MO. She was born as Marguerite, but her older brother Bailey nick named her Maya, and it has stuck with her ever since. Her family move to California when she was an infant. At age 3 and a half, her parents divorced, their father them to live with his mother Annie Henderson in Stamps, Arkansas. Her grandmother instilled pride and confidence in her, her self image shattered when she was raped. At the age of eight, Maya was raped by one of her mothers friend, she then fell into an abnormal silence for 5 years. Her parents mover her back, along with Bailey to Stamps, Arkansas as a cure. Her parents moved to Southern California and were seldom heard from. Her mother remarried in 1940. Maya and Bailey had daily chores to do at the General Store.
Their grandmothers general store was a success, many people did not believe that a black woman owned and ran it. Maya had a very close relationship with her older brother Bailey. They always had there secrets jokes in church and she could always talk to him. He was always there for her, she trusted him completely. Maya’s family, was one of the few black family’s during the depression that did not suffer severely, mainly because their grandmother owned the general store. Yet, just because they didn’t suffer severely, they still suffered, they were well fed enough but they would still stop by the poorer family’s just to get peanut butter, as a treat.
Maya and Bailey move to San Francisco to rejoin with their mother. May gave birth to her son Guy, at age 17. When in high school, she received a two- year scholarship to study dance and drama at the California Labor School. Maya became the first black San Francisco streetcar conductor. She moved to Laurel Canyon in Hollywood, where she sang and raised her son. She didn’t like the fame, so she moved to Washington, where she met Bilie Holiday, She and Bilie became good friends. She is also a dedicated worker for equal rights, where, at the request of Martian Luther King Jr. served as a northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership conference. She also acted in the television version of Roots (1977) and has appeared in many other television shows, she has also been on many Talk Shows, including Oprah, where some of her books are a part of Oprahs cook club.
She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the commission of the International Women’s Year and served as a board member of the American Film Institute and as an Administrator in the music department of the University of Ghana. She studied dance with Martha Graham and Drama with Frank Silvera and went on to a career in theatre. She toured Europe and Africa with a road show of Porgy and Bess.
In 1992, President re- elect Clinton asked Maya to compose a poem for his inauguration, just as JFK had done with Robert Frost in 1961. She delivered a stunning piece at the culmination of the Jan 1993 ceremony. During the 1060’s she lived ion Egypt where she was the associate editor of the Arab Observer in Cario. From 1964 to 1966, she was a feature editor of the African Review.
Today Maya lectures in the United States and abroad. She is also a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Through her writings as well as her activism toward the cause of improving conditions for women in Third World Countries (particularly Africa), Maya continues to shed light on the possibilities for victory that can accompany seeming defeat. Maya stresses to her students that reading, especially African- American literature reinforces to us that what has come before us has survived and produced, she finishes by saying ‘You can pick yourself, dust yourself off, and prepare to love somebody. I don’t mean sentimentally, I mean the condition of the human spirit so profound that it encourages us to build bridged.’;
Maya Angelou, being born into a devastating, segregated society, knew what it was like to be different, and not on the good side, in societies eyes. Yet, she always knew she was better, she wanted human rights, not to be held back because she was an African- American woman, and she fought. She knew what it was like to not be rich, so she was rarely disappointed, she never gave up. Maya has been given many opportunities to experience many different things, she has taken every chance she’s had and has done everything to the fullest. She never let’s anything stop her, something that most people can not truly say about themselves.
Because of this, Maya has became a public hero that has truly helped shaped out society. She learned early on how to be strong, how to survive, she did not like the segregated society and fought to have it changed. She is still living now, but even when she does pass away, I believe, she will never be forgotten. She now is a college professor at Wake Forest University, and will continue to teach them, and instill pride and confidence in them, as her grandmother did with her when she was young.