Late Maya Angelou, a great American poet, memoirist, and actress whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression which went a victory lane at the end of her final thrill.
When Maya Angelou was 16 she became not only the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco but the first woman conductor. By the time she was 40 she had also been, in no particular order, a cook, a waitress, a madam, a prostitute, a dancer, an actress, a playwright, an editor at an English-language newspaper in Egypt, and a Calypso singer.
She became a mother at 17, immediately after graduating high school. She bounced from city to city, job to job and spouse to spouse,she picked up the name Angelou from one of her husbands; “Maya” was her brother’s nickname for her. She spent years living in Egypt and then in Ghana.
Angelou’s energy was enormous and her activity incessant. Though her education stopped after high school, she held a lifetime professorship at Wake Forest and collected honorary degrees from 50 more colleges and universities.
She lectured 80 times a year. From 1981 on she lived in a brick house in Winston-Salem; despite her various marriages she lived alone, and her first child was also her last. A commanding figure at 6 ft. tall, she rose at 4 or 5 every morning and went to a bare room at a nearby motel to work, alone with a stack of legal pads, a Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a bottle of sherry.
On the Pulse of Morning,” for the inauguration of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in 1993.
She celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in the poem “
A Brave and Startling Truth” (1995) and elegized Nelson Mandela in the poem “
His Day Is Done” (2013), which was commissioned by the U.S. State Department and released in the wake of the South African leader’s death. In 2011 Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.