Maya Angelou (; born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an African-American author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than 50 years. She received dozens of awards and over fifty honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first,
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen and brought her international recognition and acclaim.
She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera
Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in
Ghana during the
decolonization of Africa. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. From 1982, she taught at
Wake Forest University in
North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the
Civil Rights Movement, and worked with
Martin Luther King Jr. and
Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "
On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at President
Bill Clinton's inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since
Robert Frost at President
John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.