Ellsworth remembers The Caged Bird during Women’s History Month

  • Published
  • By 28th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity Office
  • 28th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity Office
Author, poet, dancer, actress, film and television producer, rights activist - all describe the late Maya Angelou. In observance of Women's History Month, we honor her life and recognize her accomplishments.

Maya, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was born in St. Louis, Mo., April 4, 1928. The nickname Maya was given to her by her older brother and she later took the stage name Maya Angelou.

From age three through her teenage years, she experienced events like sexual abuse and racism, and was even unable to speak for five years.

During the '50s, she danced professionally in clubs around San Francisco and after touring Europe, was able to focus on her writing career. She eventually had the chance to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and later became good friends with Malcolm X in the early '60s, with whom she helped build the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964.

On Maya's 40th birthday, the untimely assassination of King sent her into a deep state of depression. However, James Baldwin, a friend of Maya's, decided to console her with an invitation to a dinner party where she shared stories about her life. Compelled by what she had said, Baldwin encouraged her to write a book.

She decided to write the autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was published in various languages and printed for many years. The book brought her worldwide recognition and was the beginning of her literary acclaim.

Although she later worked in television and music, Maya still managed to write poetry and publish other books and she became an icon for African Americans and women alike, proving to her readers that with a strong will, anyone can overcome hardship.

Maya eventually wrote an original poem that was later read at the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton during the Democratic Party convention in 2008.

She won numerous awards, namely multiple Grammy's and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor any civilian can receive, in literature.

Maya Angelou died May 28, 2014, but even in death, her stories, poetry and life continue to inspire people around the world. She was indeed a great woman of history and triumphed as the caged bird.