The First Decade 1928-1937
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
Born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Marguerite Johnson, to Bailey and Vivian Baxter Johnson. Her brother, Bailey, gives her the name Maya.
Family moved to California when she was an infant.At 3 ½ her parents divorce. She and brother move to Stamps, Arkansas to live with father’s mother, Annie Henderson.
At 7 ½ she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, is mute for five years.
Significant Events: The Second Decade 1938-1947
1940: Graduate with honors from Lafayette country training School. Maya and her brother move to San Francisco to rejoin their mother, who had recently remarried. Maya had been active in school, church, and the family store.
While in high school she received a two-year scholarship to study dance and drama at the California Labor School.1945: Gives birth to son, Guy Johnson. She is unmarried. Was the first black San Francisco streetcar conductor.Late teens, supported herself as a Creole-style cook.
At 18: for two months, madam of two-woman whorehouse in San Diego.
Significant Events: The Third Decade 1948-1957
Early 50s, marries Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor she met while working in a record shop in San Francisco.
In the early 50s she performed in the popular West Indian calypso style at the Purple Onion, a cabaret in San Francisco. It was there that she adopted the stage name Maya Angelou (her last name was a variation of her ex-husband’s surname).Appeared in "Porgy and Bess," touring 22 nations in Europe and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Played the role of Ruby and was lead dancer. 1954 - 55.Sometime during the 50s she was a dance partner of Alvin Ailey’s in the "Al & Rita Show."1955: Taught modern dance at Habima Theatre inTel Aviv, Israel and Rome Opera House.1957: Appears in the Off-Broadway play, "Calypso Heat-wave" and records Miss Calypso for Liberty Records.Sometime in the 50s she divorced Tosh.In 1950s Maya studied dance with Martha Graham, drama with Frank Silvera and Gene Frankel, and music privately.
Late 50s,she moved to NYC, got involved with the political and literary scene there.
Significant Events: the Fourth Decade 1958-1967
I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition -- about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive. Maya Angelou
1958: Through a friend, rented a Laurel Canyon in LA apartment because the landlord did not wish to rent to a black person.
1959-60: At the urging of Civil Rights leader Bayuard Rustin, Maya appointed Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.1960: appears in Jean Genet’s all-black Obie award wining show, "The Blacks," an Off Broadway production, and she writes and performs in "Cabaret for Freedom" with Godfrey Cambridge, Off- Broadway.1961: Left New York bond bailsman she had planned to marry and moves the Cairo, Egypt with Vusumzi Make, a South African dissident lawyer.During her time in Africa, she was with the University of Ghana, Institute of African Studies, as assistant administrator of the School of Music and Drama, in Legon-Accra, Ghana; she also worked for the Ghanian Broadcasting Corporation and a freelance writer for the Ghanian Times.She served as associate editor of the Arab Observer, as English-language news weekly in Cairo.1964: Appeared in "Mother Courage" at the University of Ghana1966: appeared in Jean Anouilh’s "Medca," in Hollywood. She wrote a two-act drama, "The Least of These," which is first produced in L.A.Left Africa in 1966, after last serving as a feature editor at the African Review in Accra. For a short period, is a guest lecturer at UCLA.
1966-67: Maya writes a two-act drama, "The Clawing Within," and a two-act musical, "Adjoa Amissah," which were not published.
Significant Events: The Fifth Decade 1968-1977
Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style. Maya Angelou
1968: Narrates " Black! Blues! Black!" a 10 part television series on African tradition in American life, for the National Education Television.
1970: Appointed Writer-in-Residence at the University of Kansas, and a Yale University fellow. Publishes " I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Nominated for the National Book Award and is the first of her five-volume autobiographical series. The idea for writing the book came during a dinner conversation with James Baldwin and Jules Feiffer.Also meets Paul Du Feu, the first near nude centerfold for Cosmopolitan Magazine, whom she marries three years later.1971: Publishes "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'For I Diiie," a volume of poetry, which includes many of the lyrics from her 1969 recording of "The Poetry of Maya Angelou," for G W P Records.1972: Writing the screenplay, "Georgia, Georgia," for Independent-Cinerama. Maya becomes the first black woman to have an original script produced.She receives a Pulitzer Prize nomination for "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie."Also serves as a television narrator, interviewer, and host of several African-American specials and theatre series.Moved to Sonoma, California (the wine country).1973: Makes her Broadway debut in "Look Away" and receives a Tony nomination.Goes horseback riding for the first time while in Houston.1974: Wrote the screenplay, "All Day Long."Serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Wake Forest University, Wichita State University and California State University, Sacramento. She also adapts Sophocles "Ajax" a two-act drama, which is first produced in LA at the Mark Taper Forum.She writes her second autobiographical work, "Gather Together in My Name."1975: Is selected a Rockefeller Foundation scholar in Italy, and is awarded honorary degrees from Smith College and Mills College.President Ford appoints her to the American Revolution Council."Oh Pray My Wings Are 'Gonna Fits Me Well," a collection of poems is published.Records "An Evening with Maya Angelou" for the Pacific Tape Library, and is appointed to the board of trustees of the American Film Institute.February 2, 1976 becomes a grandmother through the arrival of Colin Ashanti Johnson.1976: "Singin'; and Swing'; and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas,"Her third autobiographical volume, is published. She writes two African-American television specials, "The Legacy and the "Inheritors."She is name Woman of the Year in Communications by the Ladies Home Journal, and is awarded an honorary doctorate from Lawrence University.1976: Writes and directs the play, "And Still I Rise" which is performed at the Ensemble Theatre in Oakland , California.1977: Play Nyo Boto in "Roots" for which she is nominated for an Emmy.Named by President Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year.
For her documentary series, "Afro-American in the Arts," she receives the Coveted Golden Eagle Award from the Public Broadcasting System.
Significant Events: The Sixth Decade 1978 - 1987
We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders. Maya Angelou
1978: Publishes her third volume of poetry, "And Still I Rise."
1979: " I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is made into a movie for CBS-TV.1980: Divorces Paul Du. Feu.1981: Publishes " The Heart of a Woman," the fourth work of her autobiographical series. She also records "Women in Business" for the University of Wisconsin.Accepts the lifetime appointment as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies as Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.1982: Writes teleplay "Sister, Sister," a dramatic rendering of lives of a middleclass black family; aired on NBC-TV.1983: Publishes "Shaker, Why Don't You Sing," a collection of song like poems.1984-85: Maya is named by Gov. James B. Hunt to the Board of the North Carolina Arts Council.1986: "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes," her fifth autobiographical work, chronicles her four-year sojourn in Ghana.
1987: Publishes "Now Sheba Sings the Song" with Tom Feelings, a distinguished artist and illustrator. She directs Errol John's play, "Moon a Rainbow Shawl," for Akuntunde Productions in London, England.
Significant Events: The Seventh Decade 1988 to the Present
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
1990: Publishes " I Shall Not Be Moved," another collection of poems.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, London, England, named a center for Maya Angelou. N. S. P. C. C Maya Angelou C. P. T. and Family Center was opened by Dr. Angelou on June 1992
1992: Receives the Horatio Alger award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.1993: Delivers powerful poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," written and read by Maya at the request of and at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. It is the first time a poet had taken part in the event since Robert Frost spoke at President Kennedy's inauguration."Life Doesn't Frighten Me," a children's book, presents Maya's poems illustrated by paintings and drawings of Jean Michel Basquiat.Publishes "Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now," a collection of essays on lessons in living.Writes poetry for the John Singleton film "Poetic Justice".1994: Receives Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word for Non-Musical Album for her inaugural poem.Receives the NAACP's Spingarn Award which is presented annually to a man or woman of African descent for highest achievement during the preceding year or years in an honorable field or endeavor.Publishes " My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me," a children's book with photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke.1995: Publishes "Phenomenal Woman," a collection of four poems celebrating women, which are considered to be among the most remembered and acclaimed of Maya's poems.Participates in the first Million Man March.Boycotts Jeopardy because the program does not include a sufficient number of black contestants.Reads her poem "A Brave and Starling Truth," at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco; the poem is published later that year by Random House.1996: Receives grimy Award for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album for her poem, "Phenomenal Woman."Writes for and performs with Ashford and Simpson on their romantic musical album, "Been Found," Hopsack & Silk Record, Inc.Appointed a National Ambassador for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF.1997: Publishes "Even the Stars Look Lonesome," a book of essays.Had three books on the New York Times Best Seller Book List for 10 consecutive weeks.February 1,1998 becomes a great grandmother through arrival of Caylin Nicole Johnson.1998: Nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Word for "Even the Stars Look Lonesome."Directs original screenplay by Myron Goble, "Down in the Delta" for Showtime-TV movie.Member, A. F. T. R. A ( American Federation Television Radio Artists). Advisory Board, Woman's Prison Association.Harlem Writer's Guild.Member, The National Commission on the observance of International Woman's Year.
Awards, Honors, Recognition:
Bates Bestows Distinguished Degree upon Maya Angelou
African American Couple Finds Home in Ghana
For a time, well-known African-Americans moved to Ghana as well, including historian W.E.B. DuBois and writer Maya Angelou. It was a center for African-American political activism. Even celebrities like Muhammad Ali would pass through on publicity tours.
Greatness through Literature
Her personal outreach to improve conditions for women in Third World, primarily in Africa, has helped change the live thousands less privileged. Here is where she gives with all her heart and soul.
St. Augustine College
Dr. Maya Angelou - - A remarkable renaissance woman
16th Crystal awards honoree
Keynote Speaker Worldwide
Reynolds Professor of American Studies, Wake Forest University.
Journalist, Educators to Receive Honorary Degrees
at 154th Commencement
Awards, Honors, Recognitions
Chubb Fellowship Award, Yale University, 1970.
Nomination, National Book Award, for I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Pulitzer Prize Nomination for Just Give ma a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, 1972.
Honorary Degree, Portland State University, 1973.
Tony Award Nomination for her performance in Look Away, 1973.
An African American Icon
Board of Trustees/American Film Institute, 1975.
Rockefeller Foundation Scholar in Italy (Scholar-in-residence at the Bellagio Study & Conference Center, 1975.
Honorary Degree, Smith College, 1975.
Honorary Degree, Mills College, 1975.
Honorary Degree, Lawrence University, 1976
Ladies' Home Journal Award ("Woman of the Year in Communication"), 1976.
Emmy Award Nomination, made-for-television movie Roots, 1977.
Golden Eagle Award, Documentary for PBS, Afro-American in the Arts, 1977.
Honorary Degree, Columbia College, 1979.
Honorary Degree, Occidental College, 1979.
Honorary Degree, Atlanta University, 1980.
Honorary Degree, University of Arkansas at Pinebluff, 1980.
Honorary Degree, Wheaton College, 1981
First Reynolds Professor, Wake Forest University (lifetime appointment since 1981).
Honorary Degree, Keane College of New Jersey, 1982.
Honorary Degree, Claremont Graduate School, 1982.
Honorary Degree, Spellman College, 1983.
Honorary Degree, Boston College, 1983.
Ladies' Home Journal, "Top 100 Most Influential Women," 1983.
The Matrix Award, Field of Books from Women in Communication, Inc., 1983.
Honorary Degree, Winston-Salem State University 1984.
Honorary Degree, University Brunesis 1984.
Honorary Degree, Howard University 1985.
Honorary Degree, Tufts University 1985.
Honorary Degree, University of Vermont 1985.
Honorary Degree, North Carolina School of the Arts, 1986.
The North Carolina Award in Literature (the highest honor the state bestows), 1987.
Honorary Degree, North Carolina School of the Arts, 1988.
Honorary Degree, University of Southern California, 1989.
American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award, 1990.
Recipient of the Langston Hughes Award presented at the City College of New York, 1991.
Distinguished Woman of North Carolina, 1992.
Essence's "Woman of the Year," 1992.
Horatio Alger Award, 1992.
Woman in Film Award, 1992.
Honorary Degree, Northeastern University, 1982.
Inaugural Poet for President Bill Clinton, 1993
Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, 1993.
Honorary Degree, Skidmore College, 1993.
Honorary Degree, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1993.
Honorary Degree, Academy of Southern Arts & Letters, 1993
Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, 1994.
Spingarn Award, NAACP, 1994.
Honorary Degree, American Film Institute, 1994.
Honorary Degree, Bowie State University, 1994.
Frank G. Wells Award, 1995.
Honorary Degree, University of Durham 1995.
Lifetime Membership, N. A. A. C. P., Honeywell Corporation, Minneapolis, MN, 1996.
President's Award, Collegiate of Language Association for Outstanding Achievements, Winston-Salem, NC, 1996.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles & Martin Luther King King, Jr. Legacy Association National Award, 1996.
The New York Black 100, Schomburg Center & The Black New Yorkers, 1996
National Conference of Christians & Jews, Distinguished Merit Citation, 1997.
Homecoming Award, Oklahoma Center for Poets & Writers, 1997.
W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Expert-in-Residence Program, 1997.
North Carolina "Woman of the Year" Award, N.C. Black Publishers Association, 1997.
Presidential & Lecture Series Award, University of North Florida, 1997.
Black Caucus of American Library Association, Cultural Keepers Award, 1997.
Humanitarian Contribution Award, Boston, MA, 1997.
Honorary Degree, Shaw University, 1997.
Honorary Degree, Wake Forest University, 1997.
Alston/Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award, 1998.
Christopher Award, New York, NY, 1998.
American Airlines Audience, Gold Plaque Choice Award for Down in the Delta from Chicago International Film Festival, 1998.
City Proclamation, Winston-Salem, NC from Mayor Jack Cavanaugh, 1998.
Sheila Award, Tubman African American Museum, Macon, GA, 1999.
Special Olympics World Games, Speaker, Raleigh, NC, 1999.
Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature, 1999.
Named one of "the top 100 best writers of the 20th Century" by Writer's Digest, 1999.
Honorary Degree, Lafayette College, 1999.
Researched and prepared by:
Celia C. Daniel, English Bibliographer