Maya Angelou, journalist and poetess

Important dates

  • April 4, 1928: Birth of Marguerite Johnson in St Louis, Missourri
  • 1940: She moved to San Fransisco
  • 1954-55: Toured in 22 countries
  • 1959: Was introduced to the “Civil Rights Movement” and became journalist
  • 1981: Became a professor at the Wake Forest University
  • May 28, 2014: death of Maya Angelou

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”


Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson, was born in St Louis Missouri April 4, 1928. She was raped at the age of eight and became frightened by the power of her words as her uncle kicked to death her rapist. She was in fact so scared that she did not talk for five years.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

After this period of silence, Angelou began to develop her skills and emerged as a singer, dancer and lover of poetry at a young age. In 1940 she moved to San Francisco with her mother and brother. She began taking dance lessons in order to integrate professional theater. However, her plans changed when she got pregnant at the age of 16 y.o. She worked as a nightclub waitress, prostitute and danced in strip clubs. However, this setback actually became her chance in life. Angelou  met a theatre group at one of these clubs and auditioned for a role in an international tour of “Porgy and Bess” and got the role. The company toured in 22 countries from 1954 to 1955.

After that, in 1959 she moved to New York and encountered prominent Harlem writers that introduced her to the ‘Civil Rights Movement’. After New York she moved to Egypt then Ghana, where her son was injured in a car accident. While caring for him she started working for the “African Review” for years. While working there she flourished as a writer influenced by the African cultural renaissance.

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

When she returned to the U.S she started publishing her multivolume autobiography “I know why the caged bird sings”. Then four more volumes in two decades as well as several poetry books.

In 1981, Angelou was made a professor of American studies at the Wake Forest University in Winston, Salem. She received several important awards and was given the opportunity to read a poem written for president Clinton’s Inauguration.

Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014 in North Carolina at the age of 86 y.o, as one of the most influential poets of her era.