Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928, Maya Angelou is recognized as one of the nation’s most outstanding African-American poets and autobiographers.
Her most popular series have been her autobiographic volumes that focus on her childhood experiences and negotiations of young adulthood. Her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a deep description and analysis of her first seventeen years as a woman. She not only garnered national attention for the book, but also was nominated for the National Book Award. Angelou was praised for her engagement of the public with her personal life and was lauded for her style as a memoirist in literature. She was a Pulitzer Prize winner for her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie in 1971 and has been awarded more than 30 honorary degrees.
In the 1950s, Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild and was an active civil rights worker. She served as the Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and championed for the progressive causes of African-Americans throughout the nation. In 1995, Angelou had the longest-running record on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List. Several of her texts have embodied themes of identity, racism, and family and are used in schools internationally. Her literary work has challenged the standard styles of autobiography, helped to expand the genre of autobiographical fiction, and heightened recognition of female authors.