Maya Angelou – Life and Work
I know why the caged bird sings
“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
From ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou
How did poet Maya Angelou know how a caged bird sings?
Maya Angelou struggled right from childhood. Maya’s mother’s boyfriend, Freeman was violent to Maya. Maya told her brother, who told the rest of the family. Freeman was found guilty by the court, but got a light punishment.
Later, he was murdered, probably by Maya’s uncles. Maya thought her voice had killed Freeman, and she thought her voice would kill anyone, so she did not speak for five years.
Her brother would call her mya sister and that is how she became Maya from Marguerite. Before Maya graduated, she worked as the first African-American woman streetcar conductor. She gave birth to her son when she was just seventeen. She disappeared for a month before these events.
African Americans’ national anthems
Maya talks about this period in her first autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.’ Her poems reflected the struggles faced by African Americans. They were called African Americans’ national anthems. She also worked with Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. She also became a famous singer and dancer.
Awards and Honors
She had won several awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2011. She was nominated for the Pulitzer award for Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Dillie. She received the National Medal of Arts, more than fifty honorary titles, and three Grammy awards. Maya wrote seven autobiographies, the last at age 85. She died on May 28, 2014.
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