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More Maya Angelou Bios & Profiles


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Biography #2

DR. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom and unique power to help readers of every orientation span the lines of race and class. A mesmerizing vision of grace, swaying and stirring when she moves, Angelou captivates audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.

Born in St. Louis, Angelou spent her early childhood in Stamps, Arkansas, before her family moved to San Francisco. Determined to build a stage career, Angelou studied drama and dance. In 1952, her career took a significant turn when she received a scholarship to study dance with Pearl Primus in New York. She then joined the 2-country European tour of Porgy and Bess.

In this politically active period, Angelou married a South African freedom fighter and moved first to Cairo and then to Ghana. In both countries, she continued her writing as a journalist. She became the first woman editor of Cairo's The Arab Observer, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. In Ghana, she worked at The African Review (Accra) as a features director. She also joined the University of Ghana as a teacher and assistant administrator at the School of Music and Drama.

In the sixties, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was also appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission, and by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year.

In the film industry, especially through her work in script writing and directing, Angelou has been a groundbreaker for black women. Her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia was the first original script by a black woman to be produced. As a writer/producer for 20th Century Fox Television, Angelou's film Sisters, Sisters" became the company's first full-length effort. She has worked on numerous musical scores for films, both her own and others, and most recently played a role in Universal Pictures' How to Make an American Quilt.

Angelou's accomplishments in the television industry are just as significant. She has made hundreds of appearances on both network and local television talk shows, including a one-hour interview with Bill Moyers on the PBS special Facing Evil. She has appeared on such programs as Sesame Street and Touched by an Angel, and her renowned autobiographical account of her youth, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was a special for CBS in 1979. Angelou received an Emmy nomination for her supporting role in the 1977 production of Roots and the coveted Golden Eagle Award for her PBS special Afro-American in the Arts.

Drawing upon her many talents, Angelou collaborated with Godfrey Cambridge to write, produce and perform in the revue Cabaret for Freedom. She also appeared with Cambridge in Jean Genet's play The Blacks, a production which later won an Obie Award.

updated 28-Aug-2002