Women's History Month: Celebrating Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style."

Maya Angelou is an American poet, writer, and civil rights activist.

Born as Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri to Bailey and Vivian Johnson. Her nickname Maya was given to her by her older brother, derived from "Mya Sister."

After her parents divorced, Maya was sexually abused by her mother's new boyfriend. She told her brother and the man was arrested for a day, before being released and killed a few days later. Maya became a mute for five years, claiming that her voice and her speaking up killed him. It was at this time that Maya developed a strong sense of the world, an incredible memory and a love for literature.

RELATED: 10 books Maya Angelou left for us

The rest of Maya Angelou's life is marked by tremendous success. Name a medium and odds are she worked in it.

Her most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a memoir published in 1969 that details her early childhood. The novel brought her immense international fame and was the first nonfiction best-seller by an African American woman.

Angelou also wrote poetry. She read On The Pulse of Morning during Bill Clinton's inaugural address. She also is credited as the first black woman screenwriter, writing the film Georgia, Georgia in 1972. Angelou went on to direct Down in the Delta in 1998, a critically acclaimed film that featured Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. To add on that, Angelou has three Grammy wins for Best Spoken Word Albums.

As a civil rights activist, Maya Angelou worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama during his presidential campaign in 2008. She donated her life's work to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and worked as a consultant for the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr.

On May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou passed away in North Carolina. The world mourned the passing of an icon.

Her life's work is tremendous and legendary. Her career and writings continue to inspire the entire world and Maya Angelou lives forever on through her activism and contributions to the literary world.

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