I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Biography: Maya Angelou
Dr Maya Angelou is perhaps most well known for her series of autobiographies that began with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). She was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928 and went on to be a singer, actress, writer and political activist. As a measure of the esteem she is held in (in liberal circles), she delivered her poem, ‘On the Pulse of Morning’, at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993. Her affiliation with the Clintons has continued and she has endorsed Hillary Clinton in support for her presidential campaign.
The further instalments in her autobiographies are: Gather Together in My Name (1974); Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting Merry Like Christmas (1976); The Heart of a Woman (1981); All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), and A Song Flung up to Heaven (2002). These works trace her life, from her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas (in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) to being a mother, actress, singer and writer. She was also a member of the Harlem Writers’ Guild as well as working in civil rights’ organizations in the 1950s and 1960s. Her involvement in this field is exemplified by her appointment as the Northern co-ordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr Martin Luther King.
In a diverse life of writing, performing and political activism, she has been made the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. In 1981, for example, she was appointed as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for her first book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie (1971).