Dr Maya Angelou was a spokesperson for black women and a civil rights activist alongside Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, as well as an author, poet, educator, producer, actress and filmmaker. Born in St Louis, she earned her living in early adulthood as a cook, nightclub dancer, sex worker, singer and actress. She wrote seven autobiographies, the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969. Her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. She was awarded over 50 honorary degrees and received the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 amongst many other awards.
Read about the poetry of Maya Angelou in A Little History of Poetry by John Carey or check out more Remarkable People from Little Histories!