A poet, an author, a play-write, an actress, a mother, a civil-rights activists, historian and most important a survivor. Perhaps Maya Angelou, award winning author of many books, is one of the most influential African Americans in American history. I believe that she rates at the top of the list of American authors, with Hemingway, Hawthorne, and Voight. I believe through my research and reading of Maya Angelou that she should be among the members of The American Authors Hall of Fame. Maya was born on, April 4th, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson, in St. Louis Missouri. She was raised in Stamps Arkansas, by her Grandmother Annie Henderson and Her Uncle Willie. Stamps was a rural segregated community. However, it was tight knit between the African Americans. Maya grew up during a very difficult time period in American history. They were just recovering from the Great Depression, and learning how to deal with different races of people. Maya knew this and made it clear in her writing. "It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. We should be dead. I thought I should like to see us all dead, one on top of each other. A pyramid of flesh with the whit folks on the bottom, . . . and then the Negro's." (Angelou Caged Bird 153) "If growing up was painful for the Southern Black Girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." (Angelou, Caged Bird)
Grandma Henderson was a very religious person, and a key factor in Maya's upbringing. as with the rest of the people of Stamps. Maya and her brother Baily were punished as necessary. She kept Baily and Maya out of trouble and on the right track. "A devout woman Grandmother Henderson led her family in prayer each day at 4:00am." (Aging and Human Development 181) When Maya was about six, she and Baily moved to St. Louis to live with her mother, and her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. While staying in St. Louis, she was raped by Mr. Freeman. Afterwards, Mr. Freeman was killed. Maya was certain that her voice had the power to kill, after all, she was the one that told on him, so Maya became mute for the next two years. After returning to Stamps, a woman by the name of Bertha Flowers brought Maya out of her mute. "Mrs. Flowers she ha...
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...ece of Americana for one simple reason. That reason is that the book tells in detail how difficultly but interesting it was to grow up in the mid 1930's. Maya grew up in one of the most difficult time periods in American history. I feel that her message from the book is love what you have and know, not what you don't have and don't know. I truly learned a lesson from Maya and Her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I have learned to be thankful fro what I have and the time period that I am living in, to enjoy it.
Maya Angelou has touched the live of thousands of people through her books, speeches, and just her general being. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to have read and of written about her. I hope other people have the chance to read and appreciate Maya, the way the I and others have.
Aging and Human Development. 1992 ed. Massachusetts: Lexington 1991
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York, Norton 1970
Angelou, Maya. All God’s Children Need Walking Shoes. NewYork, Norton 1986
Thomas, Alicia..“Maya Angelou; A Given Gift” People Feb. 2001: 12-17
Thurneo, Jones. “A Woman of Dignity.” Times Magazine 27 July 2002: 31-36
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