Fairy Tale: Maya Angelou & Legacy Of The Caged Bird

Kids don’t need to hear Cinderella and mermaid stories anymore. Show them the real-life by teaching them about the woman and man you know who survived the hardest phase of life. Like Maya Angelou, who never stopped growing after she was raped at the age of 7. 

I am Marguerite Annie Johnson, later you will know me as Maya Angelou. I was born on April 4, 1978. I lived with my father’s mother in Arkansas because my parents divorced when I was young.

During my school days, I went through bullying because of my race and colour. At the age of 7, my mother’s boyfriend raped me. I never knew what rape was, but it felt worse. In revenge, my uncle killed the rapist.

I went to virtual mute. I stopped talking. I thought that my voice killed him. I killed that man because I told him his name. And then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone.

I was a fry cook, nightclub performer, actress, writer, producer, sex worker, and producer of plays and movies. I worked at a lot of places, in different professions. “I loved the uniforms” At the age of 16, I was the first black female cable car conductor, which was my dream job.

My teacher Mrs Bertha Flowers introduced me to Shakespeare, Dickens and Allen Poe. She showed me the works of female black artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer and Jessie Fauset.

I loved dancing. I learnt Dance & acting at California Labor School during World War II. 

I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, ‘I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.’ They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, ‘Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.’ They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives.

You are not who you are born as. You are who you become after experiencing struggles and pain. Problems don’t define you. The way you face it, and make the most out of the life you have been blessed with shows the world who you are. Are you going to fight and save yourself, or wait for someone to give you a hand?

After a difficult childhood, I became a poet, writer and civil rights activist. I became the voice of many women who goes unheard. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. 

Autobiographies:

I know why the Caged Bird Sings (1969): up to 1944 (age 17)
Gather Together in My Name (1974): 1944-48
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas (1976): 1949-55
The Heart of a Woman (1981): 1957-62
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986): 1962-65
A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002): 1965-68
Mom & ME & Mom (2013): overview

Awards:

Pulitzer Prize Nomination
Tony Award nomination
Three Grammys
National Medal of Arts
Presidential Medal Of Freedom
More than 30 health care and medical facilities are named after Angelou
More than 50 honorary degrees 

It is the second part of the series Fairy Tales (not really!) You can read the first part here.

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