I grew up hearing her name with reverence in a home that loved literature. In school, we read her poems and heard of her great writing talents. It was a name I was familiar with as a child and grew to admire and respect as an adult who loved to read and strove to write. Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in April of 1928, she was dubbed ‘Maya’ by her brother, Bailey, who could not pronounce her name and wanted to call her ‘Mine’. Her debut autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ was published for the first time in 1969 when she was 41 years old and had already seen and lived through more than most of us ever think we will and never should.
Many people thought of Maya Angelou as just a writer but she was so much more. Her early years were spent in many vocations including dancer and singer. She traveled the world teaching and learning. She met and worked with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr on the journey for civil rights and equality. She directed a major motion picture with Down in the Delta starring Wesley Snipes. She has been a teacher, a mother, a friend, and an inspiration. She will be sorely missed in the world and in our hearts but her memory and her works will bring joy to others for centuries and we were blessed to have had her among us.