You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri.
She has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.
She has received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees.
Angelou’s list of occupations includes pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author, journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization, and actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.
Since 1982, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies.
She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties.
the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer.
When Angelou was three, and her brother four, their parents’ “calamitous marriage” ended. 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, 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, Mr. Freeman. She confessed it to 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 has 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, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother once again. 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, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors that would affect her life and career, as well as Black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.