WINSTON-SALEM, NC - MAY 20: Dr. Maya Angelou attends her 82nd birthday at a party with friends and family at her home on May 20, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images)

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was a civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, and her numerous poetry and essay collections.

In the mid-1950s, Angelou’s career as a performer began to take off. She landed a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess, later appearing in the off-Broadway production Calypso Heat Wave (1957) and releasing her first album, Miss Calypso (1957).

A member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist, Angelou organized and starred in the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also serving as the SCLC’s northern coordinator.

She earned a Tony Award nomination for her role in the play Look Away (1973) and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television miniseries Roots (1977), among other honors.  Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009.


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