Maya Angelou

January 11, 2009

posted by caroline picard; the original site for this post can be viewed here.

Maya Angelou

b. 1928

Biography / Criticism

Born April 4, 1928 in Saint Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou’s given name was Marguerite Johnson. In her early twenties she was given the name Maya Angelou after her debut performance as a dancer at the Purple Onion cabaret. The author’s father, Bailey Johnson, was a naval dietician, and her mother was Vivian Johnson. She has one sibling, a brother named Bailey after their father. When she was about three years old, their parents divorced and the children were sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Angelou claims that her grandmother, whom she called “momma, had a deep-brooding love that hung over everything she touched.” Growing up in Stamps, Angelou learned what it was like to be a black girl in a world whose boundaries were set by whites. She learned what it meant to have to wear old hand me downs from a white woman. And she also learned the humiliation of being refused treatment by a white dentist. As a child she always dreamed of waking to find her “nappy black hair” metamorphosed to a long blond bob because she felt life was better for a white girl than for a black girl. Despite the odds, her grandmother instilled pride in Angelou with religion as an important element in their home.

After five years of being apart from their mother the children were sent back to Saint Louis to be with her. This move eventually took a turn for the worst when Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The devastating act of violence committed against her caused her to become mute for nearly five years. She was sent back to Stamps because no one could handle the grim state Angelou was in. With the constant help of a woman named Mrs. Flowers, Angelou began to evolve into the young girl who had possessed the pride and confidence she once had. Again in 1940, her brother and her were sent to San Francisco to live with their mother. Life with her mother was constant disorder. Living with her mother soon became too much for her so she ran away to be with her father and his girlfriend in their rundown trailer. Finding that life with him was no better, she ended up living in a graveyard of wrecked cars that mainly housed homeless children. It took her a month to get back home to her mother. Angelou’s dysfunctional childhood spent moving back and forth between her mother and grandmother caused her to struggle with maturity. She became determined to prove she was a woman and began to rush toward maturity. Angelou soon found herself pregnant, and at the age of sixteen she delivered her son, Guy.

you can read the rest of this post by visiting this site.

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