The Experience of Maya Angelou Life

            Maya Angelou -- From Innocence to Experience.

             As we review the works of renowned author and poet Maya Angelou, the passion, power and extraordinary life experiences of one of the greatest writers of our time comes shining through. She is best known for a series of autobiographical novels beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings published in 1971. Angelou has been praised for confronting both the racist and sexual pressures on black women and her work combines her perspective as an individual with her involvement in larger social and political movements, including civil rights. Within this context, I will show how Angelou"s prose and poetry reflect the tribulations that she has encountered in her life.

             Maya Angelou was born April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey and Vivian Baxter Johnson. Her father was a brash, vain former doorman and later a Navy dietitian. Her mother was a fun loving, exceedingly beautiful woman who was trained as a nurse but made her living "cutting poker games in gambling parlors" (Angelou Caged Bird 174). Her parents soon divorced and she was sent, rather unceremoniously, along with her older brother, Bailey, to live with her paternal grandmother in rural Stamps, Arkansas. Maya Angelou describes the scene in the opening lines of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:.

             When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed–"To Whom It May Concern"–that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson (3).

             In 1930, Stamps was a rural town of fewer than twenty-five hundred people. Less than forty miles from the Louisiana border, it was deep in the heart of the Cotton Belt (Meltzer 4). An invisible line divided one section of town from the other. Poor backcountry whites lived on one side and even poorer blacks lived on the other.

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