Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. After her parents' marriage ended, she and her brother, Bailey (who gave her the name "Maya"), were sent to rural Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their grandmother, who owned a general store. Although her grandmother helped her develop pride and self-confidence, Angelou was devastated when she was raped at the age of eight by her mother's boyfriend while on a visit to St. Louis. After she testified against the man, several of her uncles beat him to death. Believing that she had caused the man's death by speaking his name, Angelou refused to speak for approximately five years.
In the late 1950’s Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild. With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Published in 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings received international acclaim made the bestseller list. The book was also banned in many schools during that time as Maya Angelou’s honesty about having been sexually abused opened a subject matter that had long been taboo in the culture. Later, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would become a course adoption at college campuses around the world. With more than 30 bestselling titles, Maya Angelou has written 36 books.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)
- Gather Together in My Name (1974)
- Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976)
- The Heart of a Woman (1981): 1957–62
- All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)
- A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002)
- Mom & Me & Mom (2013)