Maya Angelou was an African-American author, playwright, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. Her illustrious 50-year career included publishing 36 books, including volumes of poetry and three books of essays. Angelou is credited also for producing and acting in several plays, musicals, movies, and TV shows. She is best known, however, for her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
A Crusader for Rights
She was active in the Civil Right Movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and MalcolmX. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. her contributions to civil rights as a fundraiser and SCLC organizer were successful and eminently effective. Angelou put her support behind Senator Barack Obama who went on to win the election and become the first African-American president of the United States.
Awards and Honors
Angelou's numerous awards include the Presidential Medal of Arts (2000), the Lincoln Medal (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama (2011), the Libertarian Award from the National Book Foundation (2013), and the Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2013). Though her educational pursuits were limited to high school, Angelou received 50 honorary doctorates.