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What are some facts about Maya Angelou?

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Quick Answer

One fact about the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is that she was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. Her professional name is a combination of her childhood nickname "Maya," which her brother Bailey bestowed on her, and the shortened nickname of her first husband Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor and aspiring musician. Angelou's most celebrated literary work was her autobiographical book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

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A natural performer, Angelou attended the California Labor School where she won a scholarship to study acting and dance. She became pregnant her last year in high school, and a few weeks after graduation, she gave birth to her only son Clyde "Guy" Johnson. Angelou took a variety of jobs to support herself and her son. She even became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco, a position she held briefly before giving birth.

Angelou was a poet, songwriter, actor, dancer, historian, director, playwright, civil rights activist and teacher. She was friends with Martin Luther King Jr., who died on her birthday, prompting Angelou to stop celebrating her birthday. She wrote "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" after encouragement from her friend James Baldwin. She was also friends with Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey.

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  • Q:

    What is "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou about?

    A:

    Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" is about the humiliation that blacks have felt as a result of racism and oppression over the past centuries, calling them to stand up for themselves with pride and dignity. The speaker's refusal to give in to the lies of history, and succeed in spite of all of the false beliefs that others have, brings a powerful message.

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  • Q:

    What influenced Maya Angelou to write?

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    According to Biography.com, author James Baldwin convinced Maya Angelou to write about her life. The result was the 1969 bestselling memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings;" it led to international recognition for Angelou.

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  • Q:

    What is Maya Angelou's poem "Alone" about?

    A:

    The poem "Alone," by Maya Angelou, is written as the narrator's bedtime musings about life and its meaning. The poem's speaker is lying in bed thinking and searching for answers when she realizes she has the answer. She concludes that people need each other because no one successfully faces life alone.

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  • Q:

    What type of poem is "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou?

    A:

    Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" is a type of lyric poetry. The lyric poem expresses the speaker's feelings about a situation or subject and may or may not rhyme. In "Still I Rise," Angelou writes about themes of blackness, femininity and resilience.

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