Maya Angelou Essay, Research Paper
Writings of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in California (Lupton 1). When she was
three years old her parents divorced. Her father then put her and her brother on a
segregated train from St. Louis, California, to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their
grandmother (2). That began the roller coaster of her life. She went back and forth from
her mother to her grandmother on a couple of occasions. When she was seven, she
returned to live with her mother. She thought of it there as a foreign town because it was
not like what she was used to. This stay ended when her mother s live-in boyfriend raped
her. After that she returned to her grandmother and was a voluntary mute ( Maya 16).
At the age fourteen she received a scholarship to attend California Labor School (17).
After that she attended George Washington High School. While there she wanted to be a
street conductor. She applied for the job several times and finally succeeded (Holte 109-
110). At one time Angelou was not sure of her identity. She thought she could be a lesbian,
so she invited a classmate of hers to come over and have sex with her. This resulted in
pregnancy. She gave birth to her son, Guy, a month after she graduated from high school
in 1945 ( Maya 18). When she was growing up, she suffered from people being racist
toward her. For example, when she was younger her grandmother took her to a white
dentist that refused to put his hands in a black persons mouth (Arensberg 118). Occasions like such convinced her that she had to take the pain and move on. Much of
Maya Angelou s writing stresses the themes of courage, self-acceptance, and realization of
one s life ( Maya 18).
One night while having dinner with Jules Fieffer, he convinced her that the story of
her life was worth telling. She then had the courage to sit down and write I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings (Rosenfield 36). The caged bird is symbolic of a chained slave. This
book taught her how to shift through pain (Lupton 15). Most of her works relating to her
life, are autobiographical. It is needed to explain her internal struggles (Holte 106). In I
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings she shows how it is hard to be both black and female.
She always thought that courage is needed for hope. That helped her through many
obstacles in life. After having dinner with Jules one book led to another and another. The
unsettled life Angelou writes of in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings suggests a sense of
self as perpetually in the process of becoming, of dying, and being reborn, in all its
ramifications (Rosenfield 36). Angelou ends I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings with the
birth of her son, Guy. The caged bird at the end is comical and triumph. (Holte 110).
Many of Angelou s writings helped her earn self-acceptance. It is easy for her to
turn something that is going bad for the good. Dolly McPherson credits Angelou s
originality to a preoccupation with the effects of the community on the individuals
achievement and retention of an integrated, acceptable self (Lupton 11). Angelou
showing self-acceptance for herself has persuaded others to do the same. Many of
Angelou s works showed how brave and courageous she is. Her depiction of her own life
experiences sends out a universal message that reaches all who are destined to travel a
difficult road (Rosenfield 37). She has helped African-Americans accept themselves for
whom they are and not for what everyone else thinks about them (Lupton 11).
In much of Maya Angelou s writing she emphasizes themes of courage, self-
acceptance, and realization of the experiences of one s life. Maya Angelou is an inspiring
woman being a writer, poet, playwright, editor, performer, singer, film-maker, dancer,
television personality, and educator (Holte 106). She was awarded a Yale University
fellowship and appointed writer in residence at the University of Kansas ( Maya 26).
Angelou has received many awards and honorary degrees, including Grammy Awards
(1994 and 1996) for her recordings of her poetry on the albums On the Pulse of Morning
(1993) and Phenomenal Woman (1995) (Arensberg 116). Angelou plans to continue to
have an impact on people s lives of the future. She would like to keep having the great
experiences as she has had so far. She has traveled around the world, and she can speak
seven languages. She was the first black woman to write the screen play for a motion
picture, and the first to direct one. After I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou has
written many more pieces of work and plans to keep making an impression on Americans.