Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson, is an author, poet, historian, conductor, actress, singer, songwriter, playwright, film director, and civil rights activist. Born in a segregated rural area of Stamps, Arkansas, she comes from a broken home. Maya was raped at eight, and was an unwed mother at 16 years old. Throughout all these circumstances she still managed to become San Francisco's first black woman conductor. She was also the first black woman to have an original screenplay produced in 1971, "Georgia, Georgia". She has several volumes of poetry and some of her composed music was recorded by B.B. King. She was also was nominated for an Emmy Award for her acting in Roots and Georgia. She is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, and West African Fanti. She began her career in drama and dance, and she married a South African freedom fighter and lived in Cairo. During her five years in Africa, she lived in Egypt and became the editor of The Arab Observer, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. Later she also taught in Ghana and was feature editor of The African Review. In the 1960's she said that being black, female, non-Muslim, non-Arab, six foot tall, and American made for some interesting experiences during her stay in Africa. During this time she was also the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was also appointed to the Bicentennial Commission by President Gerald Ford, and the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year by Jimmy Carter. She has published ten best selling books and countless magazine articles, and in 1993 she wrote and delivered the presidential inauguration for President Bill Clinton. One of her books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was an account of her youth, describes the trauma of being raped as a child, the violent death of her attacker, and her subsequent refusal to speak for five years. It was the target of a censorship attack according to the Dec. 3, 1994 edition of the Washington Afro-American. The Round Rock, Texas parents thought that the book was "pornographic" and "just plain filth." It was also a two hour special on CBS. Currently she lectures throughout the United States and abroad and recently has been a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Thesis There are few people in the world who have set all barriers aside, and reached for the stars. There are few people who turned seemingly impossible fantasy, into reality. One of these few, is Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou is a strong and persistant individual because she has broken so many racial boundaries and has overcome so much adversity through the course of her life. As shown above in a thin outline of her life, Maya Angelou has broken new ground in many areas. Her persistence when she was trying to secure a job as a street car conductor even though there have never been any black woman street car conductors in San Francisco is one example. She didn't give up and walk away when her hopeful employers said no. Her diligence in that situation eventually payed off and she got her belt money changer, her uniform and she became the first black woman street car operator in the city. It's probably safe to assume no one else tried as hard as Maya did. No one probably had the drive or strength in character. But Maya Angelou did. She was strong in mind and in principle, and she overcame all previous limits to do what she wanted to do and work where she wanted to. Maya Angelou also became the first black woman to have an original screenplay published. She went from publisher to publisher, never giving up or losing hope until she finally broke through and had "Georgia, Georgia" published in 1971. Maya Angelou has made many stellar achievements throughout her life. These achievements could have been accomplished by any ordinary woman. Her poetry is read and applauded by countless people, some of her 10 novels have been New York Times bestsellers and she gave a U.S. Presidential Inaugural speech in 1993 among other triumphs. This woman is also in a minority, and she was raised in a southern town filled with racism. For a woman from her background to accomplish these things in simply extraordinary and says something of Maya's character. Maya Angelou rose above her troubled youth to become the established woman she is today. In doing so, she has also become a role model for black women, and to all people who want to overcome difficulty and cross the line like Maya Angelou has been.