Dr. Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary black literature and as a remarkable Renaissance woman. A mesmerizing vision of grace, swaying and stirring when she moves; Dr. Angelou captivates her audiences lyrically with vigor, fire and perception. She has the unique ability to shatter the opaque prisms of race and class between reader and subject throughout her books of poetry and her autobiographies.
Dr. Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. She is a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. She lectures throughout the U.S. and abroad and is a lifetime Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981. She has authored twelve best-selling books and numerous magazine articles earning her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. In 1993, Angelou became the second poet in US History to have the honor of writing and reciting original work at the Presidential Inauguration. On the Pulse of Morning, at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration, was an occasion that gave her wide recognition for which she was awarded a Grammy award (best spoken word).
Dr. Angelou, who speaks French, Spanish, Italian and West African Fanti, began her career in drama and dance. She married a South African freedom fighter and lived in Cairo where she was editor of The Arab Observer, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. In Ghana, she was feature editor of The African Review and taught at the University of Ghana.
Dr. Angelou, poet, was among the first African-American women to hit the bestsellers lists with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a chronicle of her life up to age sixteen (and ending with the birth of her son, Guy), which was published in 1970 with great critical and commercial success.
In the sixties, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in 1975 she received the Ladies Home Journal Woman of the Year Award in communications. She received numerous honorary degrees and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Woman's Year and by President Ford to the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Advisory Council. She is on the board of the American Film Institute and is one of the few female members of the Director's Guild.
In the film industry, through her work in script writing and directing, Dr. Angelou has been a groundbreaker for black women. In television, she has made hundreds of appearances. Her best-selling autobiographical account of her youth, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, won critical acclaim in 1970 and was a two-hour TV special on CBS. She has written and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including Afro-Americans in the Arts, a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in Roots, and her screenplay Georgia, Georgia, which was the first by a black woman to be filmed. In theatre, she produced, directed and starred in Cabaret for Freedom in collaboration with Godfrey Cambridge at New York's Village Gate; starred in Genet's The Blacks at St Mark's Playhouse; and adapted Sophocles Ajax, which premiered in Los Angeles in 1974.