Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Saivibhuti. Saivibhuti Wonders, “Who was Maya Angelou” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Saivibhuti!

Here in Wonderopolis, we’ve learned quite a bit about famous writers. We’ve read about Edgar Allan Poe, Langston Hughes, and Rachel Carson, to name a few. This Wonder of the Day is about another famous author you may have heard about. Who? Maya Angelou!

Of course, it would be a mistake to say Maya Angelou was only a writer. She worked in many fields before she published her first book. Angelou was the first woman and first Black person to become a street car conductor in San Francisco. She was a cook, a dancer, and a singer. She even once worked in a mechanic shop.

Before all of that, though, Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and Stamps, Arkansas. Following a traumatic episode of abuse, Angelou stopped speaking for five years beginning at the age of seven. During this time, she read extensively. She enjoyed authors such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Charles Dickens. 

At age 16, Angelou moved to California. There, she studied dance at the California Labor School. Later, she toured as part of the cast for the opera “Porgy and Bess.” She had a long stage career and also became an accomplished playwright, songwriter, and producer. She was the first Black woman to become a Hollywood director. Angelou won a Tony Award in 1973 and an Emmy in 1977. Angelou also won three Grammys (1993, 1995, and 2002).

In the 1950s, Angelou connected with prominent civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. She worked as the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by Dr. King. Angelou continued to be a civil rights activist for the rest of her life, standing up for the rights of Black people, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

During the 1960s, Angelou lived and worked in Egypt and then Ghana. There, she was a writer and an educator. In 1968, Dr. King was killed on her birthday. For years after, Angelou refused to celebrate her birthday. Instead, she sent flowers to Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

Upon her return to the U.S., she published her first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in 1969. It was a memoir and chronicled the story of her childhood. This became the first nonfiction bestseller by a Black woman. 

For the rest of her life, Angelou was known as one of the world’s most talented poets and authors. She wrote a total of 36 books and 167 poems. She read her poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1992. She also served on presidential committees for Gerald Ford (1975) and Jimmy Carter (1977). Angelou later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. 

Maya Angelou lived a long, full life. She passed away in 2014, at the age of 86, and is still remembered for her many accomplishments. What do you find most inspiring about Maya Angelou’s life?

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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