MAYA ANGELOU WAS BORN April 4, 1928, in St. Louis as Marguerite Johnson, however, she spent her childhood in segregated rural Arkansas. She was among the first African American women to hit the bestsellers lists with her “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which recounts her traumatic experience while visiting her mother and her years in Arkansas. She is a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. She lectures through the United States and abroad and is Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981. She has published a dozen best-selling books of poetry and prose and numerous magazine articles earning her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. At the request of President Bill Clinton, she wrote and delivered a poem at his 1993 presidential inauguration.
Angelou’s achievements are numerous. She acted in the powerful mini-series Roots, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award. She was also the first African American woman to have a screenplay, “Georgia, Georgia” filmed.