Maya Angelou Biography and Books

Maya Angelou portrait

Maya Angelou Biography: Maya Angelou is a notable American poet and author. She is most well known for her series of autobiographical books that tell the story of her life from childhood into early adulthood. Those years covered the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Era.

A Maya Angelou biography reads like an American history lesson since she lived during such a pivotal time and was active in current events of the day. In her books, she also shares her struggles with racism, single parenthood, and her search for identity.

Maya Angelou Biography - Early Life

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis.

When she was three years old, her parents split up and sent the young Mays and her brother to live with their grandmother. The grandmother owned a profitable general store and was one of the few people living a prosperous life during the Great Depression.

When Maya Angelou was eight years old, she was sent back to live with her mother. Her mother's boyfriend sexually assaulted Angelou and he was later murdered, presumably by one of Angelou's uncles. The incident left Maya Angelou mute for a period of years.

According to a Maya Angelou biography written by Marcia Ann Gillespie, it was during this time of silence that Angelou developed her love of literature and her sense of introspection. A teacher introduced Angelou to classic works of literature, and that helped her to recover and eventually speak again.

Maya Angelou Biography -Young Adulthood

Angelou held a variety of jobs once she entered adulthood. She worked as a streetcar conductor, prostitute manager, singer, dancer, and cook. She was a single mother, struggling to raise a son alone with no education or training for a career. She also had to fight racism that was prevalent at the time. Eventually, she became a popular nightclub singer and dancer, and even put out an album.

In 1959, Maya Angelou moved to New York and joined the Harlem Writers Guild where she met notable African-American writers that influenced her work.

In 1962, Angelou moved to Africa with her son to explore her African roots. While there, she met Malcolm X and helped him with his civil rights cause. Her son remained in Africa when she decided to return to America.

Once back in the United States, Angelou stayed active in the civil rights movement and began her writing career in earnest.

Maya Angelou Biography - Later Life

Photo of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou lived during some of the defining moments in modern American history. Race, motherhood, and the search for self, became common themes in her work.

Her autobiographies became bestsellers, and are found in many schools today. They tell the personal story of a strong creative girl who grew up in one of the most tumultuous periods of American history. Her life was equally tumultuous, but she eventually found fame and recognition for her creative spirit.

Angelou has received numerous distinguished awards for her writing and her contribution to American culture. In 1993, she was chosen to recite one of her poems at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. The notoriety she received as a result of this honor, introduced her to a new generation of readers, and reignited her popularity.

Maya Angelou Biography and Maya Angelou Books - In Her Words

  • "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was published in 1969. Today it is available as a book, audio book, and ebook. This is the first book in a series of autobiographies written by Maya Angelou. In it, the author tells about the events of her life from the age of three to seventeen. She was sent to live with her grandmother and endured feelings of abandonment, racism, and trauma. When she discovered William Shakespeare and the love of reading and writing, she overcame her feelings of inferiority and rose above her adversities rather than let them rule her life.

If you click on the image to the left it will open a new tab/window on, where users have given this book 4 stars out of 5.

The book can also be bought as an ebook in the flexible Amazon Kindle format (which works on PC, Mac, Android smartphone & tablet, iPad and iPhone) - to check out the Kindle ebook on, please click this link: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  • "Gather Together in my Name" is the second in the series of Maya Angelou autobiographies and it was published in 1974. This work is available as a book, ebook, and audio book. This Maya Angelou biography tells of her descent into poverty and crime as a young mother. It is set at the end of World War II, when the author was seventeen to nineteen years of age. She had become a mother and struggled to find herself by working through job after job, and waiting for her knight in shinning armor to arrive.

  • "Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas" is a book and ebook that was published in 1976. It covers the years 1949 to 1955 when Angelou was in her early twenties. During this time, Angelou started a career in the entertainment business but still struggled to support her son, find herself, find love, and overcome obstacles associated with racism.

If you click on the image to the left it will open a new tab/window on, where users have given this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

  • "The Heart of a Woman" was published in 1981. This Maya Angelou autobiography covers the years from 1957 to 1962, and is considered one of the top books written by Angelou. In this Maya Angelou biography, her son is now a teenager, and the story follows their lives as they travel around the world. During this period, Angelou became a published author and became active in the civil rights movement. At the book's end, her son leaves for college and Angelou looks forward to a life of renewed independence as her son begins a new life, but his fate was to be involved in a serious car crash.

  • "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes" is a book, audio book, and ebook that was published in 1986 and is the fifth in the series of Maya Angelou autobiographies. This work covers Angelou's life in her early thirties and deals with her recurring themes of motherhood, identity, and race. Angelou describes her wish to go home to Africa, but finds it difficult to fit in. In the end, she leaves her son in Ghana and she heads back to the United States.

  • "A Song Flung Up to Heaven" is the last book in the autobiographical series by Maya Angelou. It was published in 2002 and is available as a book, ebook, and audio book. This book covers the years from 1965 to 1968 and in it Angelou describes how the civil rights movement during that time affected her life, particularly the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Angelou also discusses her literary career and ends the book as she is beginning her first autobiography, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings."

Maya Angelou Biography - Angelou today

Maya Angelou continues to write poetry books and has several collections in print. Angelou is also known to be a very accomplished cook and has two cookbooks on the market.

She has been a university professor, actor, and film director, and she maintains a very active lifestyle as a lecturer and political activist. More importantly, she has been an inspiration to millions of her readers.

As pretty much any Maya Angelou biography shows, she overcame great adversity and went on to live a spectacular and fulfilling life.

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List of articles about self help books listed alphabetically: Alfred Adler, Barbara De Angelis, Maya Angelou BiographyArjuna ArdaghRichard Bandler, Brandon Bays, Alain de Botton, Gregg Braden Brene Brown, Les Brown, Leo Buscaglia, Tony BuzanAndrew Carnegie Biography, Carlos Castaneda, Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra, Deepak Chopra Books Paulo CoelhoStephen CoveyPeter DruckerT. Harv Eker, Masary Emoto, Timothy Ferriss, Debbie Ford Viktor FranklMahatma Gandhi, Gangaji, Shakti Gawain, Kahlil Gibran, Daniel GolemanAmit GoswamiAlex Grey, Stanislav Grof, David Hawkins, Louise Hay, Hermann Hesse, Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks, Napoleon Hill, Susan Jeffers, C G Jung, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie, Robert Kiyosaki, Bruce Lipton, Ramana Maharshi, J W Marriott, Abraham Maslow, John Maxwell, Drunvalo Melchizedek, Anthony de Mello, Anthony De Mello Quotes, Dan Millman, Bruce Moen, Robert Monroe, Michael Newton, Daniel Pink, Dave Ramsey, Ayn Rand BooksJames RedfieldCheryl Richardson, Anthony RobbinsAnthony Robbins Books Carl Rogers, Jim Rohn, Marshall Rosenberg, Geneen RothDon Miguel Ruiz, Robin Sharma, Barbara SherGeorge Soros Biography, George Soros Quotes,   Eckhart Tolle, Brian Tracy Books, Neale Donald Walsch, , Joe Vitale, Lyall Watson, Alan Watts, Stuart Wilde, Marianne Williamson, Larry WingetGary Zukav, Best Self Help Books, Self Help Books for Women

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