Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Known For: Acting · Birthday: 1928-04-04 · Deathday: 2014-05-28 (86 years old) · Gender: Female · Place of Birth: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

36 Movies · 14 TV shows

Biography

Maya Angelou ( (listen) ANN-jəl-oh; born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.She became a poet and writer after a string of odd jobs during her young adulthood. These included fry cook, sex worker, nightclub performer, Porgy and Bess cast member, Southern Christian Leadership Conference coordinator, and correspondent in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was also an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made approximately 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961.With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide, although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries. Angelou's most celebrated works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics consider them to be autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes including racism, identity, family and travel.

Personal Life

Evidence suggests that Angelou was partially descended from the Mende people of West Africa. In 2008, a DNA test revealed that among all of her African ancestors, 45 percent were from the Congo-Angola region and 55 percent were from West Africa. A 2008 PBS documentary found that Angelou's maternal great-grandmother Mary Lee, who had been emancipated after the Civil War, became pregnant by her white former owner, John Savin. Savin forced Lee to sign a false statement accusing another man of being the father of her child. After Savin was indicted for forcing Lee to commit perjury, and despite the discovery that Savin was the father, a jury found him not guilty. Lee was sent to the Clinton County poorhouse in Missouri with her daughter, Marguerite Baxter, who became Angelou's grandmother. Angelou described Lee as "that poor little Black girl, physically and mentally bruised".The details of Angelou's life described in her seven autobiographies and in numerous interviews, speeches, and articles tended to be inconsistent. Critic Mary Jane Lupton has explained that when Angelou spoke about her life, she did so eloquently but informally and "with no time chart in front of her". For example, she was married at least twice, but never clarified the number of times she had been married, "for fear of sounding frivolous"; according to her autobiographies and to Gillespie, she married Tosh Angelos in 1951 and Paul du Feu in 1974, and began her relationship with Vusumzi Make in 1961, but never formally married him. Angelou held many jobs, including some in the sex trade, working as a prostitute and madam for lesbians, as she described in her second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name. In a 1995 interview, Angelou said, I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, 'I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.' They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, 'Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.' They can't forgive themselves and go on with their lives.Angelou had one son, Guy, whose birth she described in her first autobiography; one grandson, two great-grandchildren, and, according to Gillespie, a large group of friends and extended family. Angelou's mother Vivian Baxter died in 1991 and her brother Bailey Johnson Jr., died in 2000 after a series of strokes; both were important figures in her life and her books. In 1981, the mother of her grandson disappeared with him; finding him took four years.In 2009, the gossip website TMZ erroneously reported that Angelou had been hospitalized in Los Angeles when she was alive and well in St. Louis, which resulted in rumors of her death and, according to Angelou, concern among her friends and family worldwide. In 2013, Angelou told her friend Oprah Winfrey that she had studied courses offered by the Unity Church, which were spiritually significant to her. She did not earn a university degree, but according to Gillespie it was Angelou's preference to be called "Dr. Angelou" by people outside of her family and close friends. She owned two homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a "lordly brownstone" in Harlem, which was purchased in 2004 and was full of her "growing library" of books she collected throughout her life, artwork collected over the span of many decades, and well-stocked kitchens. Guardian writer Gary Younge reported that in Angelou's Harlem home were several African wall hangings and her collection of paintings, including ones of several jazz trumpeters, a watercolor of Rosa Parks, and a Faith Ringgold work entitled "Maya's Quilt Of Life".According to Gillespie, she hosted several celebrations per year at her main residence in Winston-Salem; "her skill in the kitchen is the stuff of legend—from haute cuisine to down-home comfort food". The Winston-Salem Journal stated: "Securing an invitation to one of Angelou's Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas tree decorating parties or birthday parties was among the most coveted invitations in town." The New York Times, describing Angelou's residence history in New York City, stated that she regularly hosted elaborate New Year's Day parties. She combined her cooking and writing skills in her 2004 book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, which featured 73 recipes, many of which she learned from her grandmother and mother, accompanied by 28 vignettes. She followed up in 2010 with her second cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart, which focused on weight loss and portion control.Beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou used the same "writing ritual" for many years. She would wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to play solitaire, Roget's Thesaurus, and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She would average 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she edited down to three or four pages in the evening. She went through this process to "enchant" herself, and as she said in a 1989 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, "relive the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang". She placed herself back in the time she wrote about, even traumatic experiences such as her rape in Caged Bird, in order to "tell the human truth" about her life. Angelou stated that she played cards in order to get to that place of enchantment and in order to access her memories more effectively. She said, "It may take an hour to get into it, but once I'm in it—ha! It's so delicious!" She did not find the process cathartic; rather, she found relief in "telling the truth".

Early Life

Marguerite Annie Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer. Angelou's older brother, Bailey Jr., nicknamed Marguerite "Maya", derived from "My" or "Mya Sister". When Angelou was three and her brother four, their parents' "calamitous marriage" ended, and their father sent them to Stamps, Arkansas, alone by train, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In "an astonishing exception" to the harsh economics of African Americans of the time, Angelou's grandmother prospered financially during the Great Depression and World War II because the general store she owned sold needed basic commodities and because "she made wise and honest investments".Four years later, when Angelou was seven and her brother eight, the children's father "came to Stamps without warning" and returned them to their mother's care in St. Louis.At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou's uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone." According to Marcia Ann Gillespie and her colleagues, who wrote a biography about Angelou, it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her.Shortly after Freeman's murder, when Angelou was eight and her brother nine, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as Black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.When Angelou was fourteen and her brother fifteen, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again, who had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, Angelou attended the California Labor School. At the age of 16, she became the first Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. She wanted the job badly, admiring the uniforms of the operators — so much so that her mother referred to it as her "dream job." Her mother encouraged her to pursue the position, but warned her that she would need to arrive early and work harder than others. In 2014, Angelou received a lifetime achievement award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials as part of a session billed “Women Who Move the Nation.”Three weeks after completing school, at the age of seventeen, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson).

Movies & TV shows

2020.

1 Movie
Minha Bateria Está Fraca e Está Ficando Tarde

Minha Bateria Está Fraca e Está Ficando Tarde

2020
As the Sars-Covid 19 pandemic increased, Rubiane Maia was in Folkestone, England, and Tom Nobrega in Tarapoto, in the Peruvian Amazon. Both were surprised by the sudden need to cancel planned trips t...

2018.

2 Movies
Mr. SOUL!

Mr. SOUL!

2018
On the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, one fearless black pioneer reconceived a Harlem Renaissance for a new era, bringing giants and rising stars of black American culture onto the national telev...
Words Are Things

Words Are Things

2018
Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words but in the meantime let’s be careful about the words we use.

2016.

1 Movie
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

2016
There is a celebration. Maya Angelou weaves her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which show hidden moments of her life during some of America's most defining civil rights ...

2015.

1 Movie
I Hope You Dance: The Power and Spirit of Song

I Hope You Dance: The Power and Spirit of Song

2015
I HOPE YOU DANCE: the power and spirit of song is the first full length documentary film to explore how one extraordinary song has transformed people's lives in profound, meaningful and sometimes star...

2014.

1 Movie
The Power of the Heart

The Power of the Heart

2014
From the director of ‘THE SECRET’ comes this unparalleled and life-changing film about the astonishing power and intelligence of your heart. Featuring some of the most inspiring and influential icons ...

2012.

1 Movie
Paul Simon - Under African Skies (Graceland 25th Anniversary Film)

Paul Simon - Under African Skies (Graceland 25th Anniversary Film)

2012
Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of Sou...

2011.

1 Movie
On the Shoulders of Giants

On the Shoulders of Giants

2011
The greatest basketball team you have never heard of is the Harlem Rens.

2009.

3 Movies
Good Hair

Good Hair

2009
Chris Rock's GOOD HAIR is an expose of comic proportions that only he could pull off.
Eia pour Césaire

Eia pour Césaire

2009
Shortly after his death in 2008, Maldoror made this film about her longtime friend and collaborator, the Négritude poet Aimé Césaire. In this film, she retraces the steps of Césaire’s travels across t...
The Black Candle

The Black Candle

2009
The origins of Kwanzaa and the seven principles upon which the pan-African holiday derives its meaning are explored in this fascinating documentary. Narrated by Maya Angelou.

2008.

1 Movie
As Seen Through These Eyes

As Seen Through These Eyes

2008
As Maya Angelou narrates this powerful documentary, she reveals the story of a brave group of people who fought Hitler with the only weapons they had: charcoal, pencil stubs, shreds of paper and memor...

2006.

1 Movie
Madea's Family Reunion

Madea's Family Reunion

2006
Madea's Family Reunion continues the adventures of Southern matriarch Madea. She has to organize her family reunion after she was ordered to be in charge of a runaway, her nieces are in a relationship...

2005.

1 TV show
TV
Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts

2005
Iconoclasts is a show on the channel. Each episode pairs two "creative visionaries" who discuss their lives, influences, and art, most of whom are friends with the other person featured in the episode...

2004.

1 TV show
TV
America Beyond the Color Line

America Beyond the Color Line

2004
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard's chair of Afro-American Studies, travels the length and breadth of the United States to take the temperature of black America at the start of the new century. He explor...

2003.

1 Movie
Sisters in Cinema

Sisters in Cinema

2003
There are twenty black women working as film directors.

2002.

1 Movie
Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim

2002
A silver haired woman, Mildred Norman, calling herself "Peace Pilgrim," walked more than 25,000 miles, from 1953 to 1981, on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to "remain a wanderer until mank...

1999.

1 Movie · 1 TV show
The Unfinished Journey

The Unfinished Journey

1999
A short about American life and history produced for the millennium New Year's Eve celebration.
TV
The Early Show

The Early Show

1999
CBS broadcasted The Early Show from New York City from 1999 to 2012 It aired from 7 to 9 a.m. Most affiliates in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones aired the show on tape-delay from 7 to 9 ...

1998.

1 Movie · 1 TV show
Down in the Delta

Down in the Delta

1998
A single mother plagued by alcohol and drug addictions is sent with her children from Chicago to her ancestral home in the Mississippi Delta to live with her uncle and aunt during the summer.
TV
The Great Depression

The Great Depression

1998
Delves into the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and how it affected people, how the American public worked together to get through the massive hardships, and how the economy recovered with World War II. Ex...

1997.

2 Movies · 1 TV show
Perfect Moment

Perfect Moment

1997
In this documentary, artist-filmmaker Nicholas Hondrogen asks people to describe memorable moments of their lives. Some, such as Norman Lear and Indian activist Russell Means, talk about religion, whi...
TV
The Gregory Hines Show

The Gregory Hines Show

1997
The Gregory Hines Show aired on CBS. The series aired on September 19, 1997 as part of the network's Block Party Friday night lineup. It was the only show on the Block Party lineup that was not produc...
Sesame Street: Elmo Saves Christmas

Sesame Street: Elmo Saves Christmas

1997
Can there be such a thing as too much Christmas? Find out... when a magical Christmas wish is granted and Elmo gets to see what the world would be like if every day were Christmas! You'll enjoy lots o...

1996.

2 Movies · 2 TV shows
Angelou on Burns

Angelou on Burns

1996
This award-winning documentary tells the story of the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s journey to Ayrshire to visit the birthplace of fellow poet Robert Burns​. As a child, Angel...
TV
Moesha

Moesha

1996
Moesha was a sitcom that aired on the UPN network from January 23, 1996 to May 14, 2001. Moesha Mitchell is a high school student living with her family in the Leimert Park neighborhood of South Centr...
TV
The Rosie O'Donnell Show

The Rosie O'Donnell Show

3.93
1996
The Rosie O'Donnell Show was an American daytime television talk show hosted and produced by actress and comedian Rosie O'Donnell. It aired for six seasons from 1996 to 2002. Topics often discussed on...
America's Dream

America's Dream

1996
This well-wrought feature is comprised of three short stories by three noted black American authors, each of which is directed by a respected black director.

1995.

1 Movie
How to Make an American Quilt

How to Make an American Quilt

1995
Soon-to-be-wed graduate student Finn Dodd develops cold feet when she suspects her fiancé is cheating on her. Finn went to visit her grandparents in order to clear her head. Finn learns that Glady Joe...

1994.

2 Movies · 2 TV shows
Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!

Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!

1994
Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! was a 1994 TV special that aired on ABC to celebrate Sesame Street's 25th anniversary. It was originally broadcast on May 18, 1994. The...
TV
Touched by an Angel

Touched by an Angel

8
1994
Touched by an Angel was an American drama series that ran for nine seasons on CBS and ended on April 27, 2003 The series stars Roma Downey as an angel named Monica, and Della Reese as her supervisor. ...
TV
Intimate Portrait

Intimate Portrait

1994
Intimate Portrait is a biographical television series on the Lifetime Television cable network focusing on different celebrities, which includes interviews with each subject. Among the people profile...
Malcolm X: Make It Plain

Malcolm X: Make It Plain

1994
Narrated by actress Alfre Woodard, this trenchant, eye-opening doc traces the radical civil rights leader’s life from his tumultuous childhood, through his rise in the ranks of the Nation of Islam, to...

1993.

2 Movies
There Are No Children Here

There Are No Children Here

1993
The devastating story of brothers Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, children of the Chicago ghetto, is told here by a Wall Street Journal reporter who first met the boys in 1985 Their family includes a mo...
Poetic Justice

Poetic Justice

7
1993
The world is seen through the eyes of main character Justice, a young African-American poet. A mail carrier invites a few friends along for a long overnight delivery run.

1989.

1 Movie
James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

1989
James Baldwin was a major 20th century American author, a Civil Rights activist and, for two crucial decades, a prophetic voice calling Americans, black and white, to confront their shared racial trag...

1987.

1 Movie
Aimé Césaire: The Mask of Words

Aimé Césaire: The Mask of Words

1987
The portrait of the Martinican writer who calls himself a rebel negro and for whom the poetic act represents an act of freedom was written by Aimé Césaire.

1986.

1 TV show
TV
American Masters

American Masters

1986
American Masters is a PBS television series which produces biographies on enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers, and others who have left an indelible impr...

1982.

1 Movie
Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister

1982
Heated confrontations and revelations result when a divorcee returns with her young son to the home of her two sisters.

1979.

1 Movie
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

1979
A young girl in the South is sent to live with her grandmother after her parents divorce.

1977.

1 Movie · 2 TV shows
The Richard Pryor Special?

The Richard Pryor Special?

1977
The NBC studio has various eccentrics. The Reverend James L was present. White, the Ugandan dictator and others are filming.
TV
The Richard Pryor Show

The Richard Pryor Show

1977
The Richard Pryor Show is a comedy variety show. It aired on NBC on September 13, 1977. The show was produced by Rocco Urbisci. Pryor did a special for NBC in 1977. The series was included in TV Guide...
TV
Roots

Roots

1977
The epic tale of Alex Haley's ancestors as portrayed in the acclaimed twelve hour mini-series Roots was first told in his 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The docu-drama covers a perio...

1976.

1 Movie
The Tapestry

The Tapestry

1976
A television drama directed by Maya Angelou. In 1975, the accomplished writer became the first African American woman to join the Directors Guild of America in the director’s category. Produced by tra...

1972.

1 Movie
Georgia, Georgia

Georgia, Georgia

1972
Diana Sands is an African American pop star with few political ideas and no need for black-activist war deserters who want her voice for their cause. In every sense of the word, Georgia's mother-figur...

1971.

1 TV show
TV
Great Performances

Great Performances

1971
Classical music, opera, popular song, musical theater, dance, drama, and performance documentaries are included in the programming portfolio of the best in the performing arts from across America and ...

1960.

1 Movie
Integration Report 1

Integration Report 1

1960
Integration Report 1, Madeline Anderson's trailblazing debut, was the first known documentary by an African American female director. With tenacity, empathy and skill, Anderson assembles a vital recor...

1959.

1 Movie
Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess

1959
Set in the early 1900s in the fictional Catfish Row section of Charleston, South Carolina, which serves as home to a black fishing community, the story focuses on the titular characters, crippled begg...

1957.

1 Movie
Calypso Heat Wave

Calypso Heat Wave

1957
A calypso craze is promoted by a jukebox operator.

1951.

1 TV show
TV
Hallmark Hall of Fame

Hallmark Hall of Fame

8.33
1951
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City based greeting card company. The longest-running primetime series in the history of tel...
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