Maya Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. A true modern-day Renaissance woman, she is an educator, author, poet, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, producer, director, and civil rights activist. She grew up in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas, but moved to San Francisco as a teenager to study dance on a scholarship. She dropped out to be a cable car operator, but eventually graduated shortly before giving birth to a son. At first, she was a waitress and a cook to support her family, but it wasn’t long before her creative passion led her to greater things.
In 1954, Angelou toured Europe performing the opera Porgy and Bess, and in 1957, she appeared on television dancing with Alvin Ailey. In 1960, she went to Cairo, Egypt and became editor of the only English-language weekly in the Middle East, The Arab Observer. A year later, she moved to Ghana to teach and work as editor for the African Review.
At the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angelou served as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and in 1970, she published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of several acclaimed autobiographical novels. Angelou also published several collections of poetry in the ensuing years; one of which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She was the first African-American woman director in Hollywood and has both written and starred in several movies and theater productions, receiving two Tony awards.