Maya Angelou (b. 1928)

African American memoirist, poet, essayist, and playwright. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Angelou attended public schools in Arkansas and California before studying music and dance. In a richly varied life, she has been a cook, streetcar conductor, singer, actress, dancer, teacher, and director, with her debut film Down in the Delta (1998). Author of numerous volumes of poetry (her Complete Collected Poems was published in 1994) and ten plays (stage, screen, and television), Angelou may be best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), the first volume of her autobiography, one of the fullest accounts of the African American woman’s experience in contemporary literature. Angelou published her sixth volume of autobiography, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, in 2002. See also mayaangelou.com.