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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

 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.