Maya Angelou She was born under the name Marguerite Johnson, but her brother Baily renamed her Maya. Her parents, Baily and Vivian Baxter Johnson, got divorced when she was very young. Maya grew up in a very racist town. There were many problems in her life, in which she describes in her autobiographical novel “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. At the age of 16, she became pregnant, while experimenting if her sexual preference was males or females. She had to get numerous jobs to support herself and her son, Clyde, who was later known as Guy.
In 1952, she married a man named Tosh Angelos, but due to his atheist ideals, which grew to be unacceptable to Mayas religion, the marriage soon ended. In order to have money to support herself and Clyde, she was forced to become a dancer and a bar girl in a strip joint. After she got enough money, she moved to New York and sang at various clubs. Maya started her writing career in New York with the Harlem Literary Guild. She made contracts which led to her recognition as a producer, director, and performer.
In 1960, she married a South African freedom fighter, Vusumzi Make. They both got jobs as editors of the Arab Observer. The marriage ended three years later, and Maya moved to Ghana. She felt at home for the first time of her life. This is when she started her first writings.
Maya was nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in “Roots” and “Georgia, Georgia”. She also received a Pulitzer Prize Nomination for her poems “Just Give Me a Cool Drink fore I Die” (1971) and “And Still I Rise” (1976). Being President Bill Clintons favorite writer, he asked her to write and deliver a poem for his 1993 presidential inauguration. She also wrote a poem for the “Million Man March”. “On the Pulse of Morning” became a best-selling book on 20 January 1993.
Now, Maya is a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forrest University in North Carolina. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to express the hardships of growing up a black woman in the time of racism and hatred. During this autobiography of Mayas life, she tells about how racist people are against her and her family, along with every other black, and how being a girl is also hard due to rapes and having to have children. People were also very religious at this time to the point that if someone did something against the religion, they would receive a beating. When Maya was three, and Bailey, her brother, four, they both left Long Beach, California to live with their fathers mother, Anne Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. They grew so much respect for Anne, that they soon called her Momma. They lived with Momma and Uncle Willie, who is crippled.
Momma owned a store in the center of town which became a big success. All of the workers in town went there for lunch every afternoon. Momma was very religious, to the point that the kids would get hit every time they disobey the religion. Uncle Willie was also very strict. He made Maya and Baily at ages five and six, learn the times tables.
Then he would test them and if they made a mistake, he would push them closer to the heater. The town that they live in is extremely racist. Every black talked about how dirty the white men are, they called them “powhitetrash”. Almost every day, being that all blacks hated whites, and vice-versa, a bunch of whites would go to the store to make fun, abuse, command Momma around the store. “People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldnt buy vanilla ice cream.
Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate” (Angelou 49). “A light shade had been pulled down between the Black community and all things white, but one could see through it enough to develop a fear-admiration-contempt for the white things white folks cars and white glistening houses and their children and their women” (Angelou 49). One time when Maya went to a white dentist, she was told that he would rather stick his hand in a dogs mouth than a niggers. When Maya and Baily went to school, the teachers would tease them and be mean to them, just because of their color.
For many years, Maya and Baily thought that their parents were dead, but on Christmas, they both received presents from them. In realizing that they were both still alive, Maya and Baily went to visit her mom, and her lover, Mr. Freeman, in St. Louis. Being that this was a completely new environment, which Maya did not like at all, she started having nightmares. She had to start sleeping with her mother and Mr.
Freeman for a few nights. One day, her mom went out early for errands and left Mr. Freeman and Maya alone. Maya woke up to a strange feeling. Mr. Freemans “thing” on her leg.
He commanded her to stay put, then he put his hand between her legs. He assured her that it was not bad and that it would not hurt, “Now, I didnt hurt you. Dont get scared” (Angelou 73). Being so young and not knowing what was happening, Maya agreed. He then took her and put her on his chest and started masturbating. In the end, he made her say that she wet the bed when mother saw the wet spot on the sheets.
He then threatened her that if she told anyone, he would kill Baily. About a month later, he raped her. “Then there was the pain. A breaking and entering when even the senses are torn apart” (Angelou 78). “I thought I had died I woke up in a white-walled world, and it had to be heaven” (Angelou 78).
And again, he told her that if she told anyone, he would kill Baily. Maya hid the bloody panties under her bed so that no one would find them. When Baily was changing the sheets, he found them. Maya was taken to the hospital. There, Baily asked who raped her, but she told him that if she tells anyone, the person would kill him.
He convinced her to tell him because if she did not, he would go out and rape other little girls. Right there, Baily started crying for her, then, Maya too, started crying. This was the last time he saw him cry in 15 years. Knowing who raped his sister, Baily told Grandmother Baxter that Mr. Freeman raped Maya. Soon later, Mr. Freeman was arrested. In court, the judge asked Maya if Mr.
Freeman has ever touched her before the raping, but she replied, “No.” She felt that she had to say no because she was convinced that she had helped him do it the first time. Thinking back to the incident, Maya started tearing, she stood up and yelled, “Ole, mean, dirty thing, you. Dirty old thing.” Mr. Freeman was given one year and one day in prison. But someone, his lawyer maybe, got him out that day. Feeling responsible for this, and convinced that everything was her fault, she stopped talking to people, except for Baily. There was a boxing match of Joe Lewis, a black man, against a white man.
This fight determined how blacks were looked at from then on. If Lewis lost, blacks would be thought of as lower than whites. The announcer said that Lewis was in the corner taking a beating. It did not look good for him. “My race groaned.
It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. It was a white woman slapping her maid for being forgetful” (Angelou 135).
Then Lewis recovered, and now he was mad! He swung punches left and right. The whites eye was bleeding, and he could not do anything to protect himself. Finally, he fell. The referee counted, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven”, the man tried to get up, but was unsuccessful. “Eight, nine, ten.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!” After reading a book about lesbians, then watching a friend, a girl, take off her shirt, Maya questioned if she liked men or women. She decided to ask a boy in her grade to have sex with her to see if she enjoyed it. He agreed to, and three weeks later, she found out that she was pregnant. She decided to wait until after she graduated high school to tell her mother about it. Shortly after, she gave birth to a baby boy, who she named Clyde.
When Maya wrote this novel, she had a lot on her mind about the hardships of her life. Between being hated for her color, raped, and abused for doing something wrong, Mayas life was very complicated. Although all of this happened to her, she did not let it effect her life too much, and now she is a very successful writer. Bibliography Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
New York: Bantam Books, 1969. Net Locker Room, The. “A short biography on Maya Angelou.” 23 June 1999. (10 Oct. 1999) Biography. “Maya Angelou.” (10 Oct.