Maya Angelou was known for her poems, quotes, dancing, and activism. You might know her for famous poetry works, including I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Mrs Flowers, and The Heart of A Woman. While there are millions of poets worldwide, Maya’s work stood out because of her outstanding writing style.

Famous for her autobiographical writing style, here are some more random but interesting facts about this renowned author that you might not know about.

1. She Became Mute for Six Years When She Was a Child

Born in 1928, Maya Angelou’s childhood wasn’t the best. First, her parents never saw eye to eye, which led to their eventual divorce. As a result, Maya ended up living with her grandmother. It was during this phase that tragedy struck.

During one of her brief visits back to her mother’s place, Maya was raped by her mother’s new boyfriend. After serving his jail term, the man was released from prison but was then killed. Maya became mute for 6 years after learning this. She was convinced that her earlier confession played a part in the man’s death.

2. Maya Was a Sex Worker, But It Forms Part of Her Legacy

Maya lived with her grandmother in Arkansas until she was 18. To fend for her infant son, she moved to California in such for work. She came across a lesbian couple for whom she worked as a madam. Even though the brothel business was promising, her stint was short-lived – they disagreed.

She left the couple for her son’s safety and freedom but continued with sex work. Even though most people might consider this aspect of her life “shameful,” Maya was very vocal about it.

She wanted people to know there were skeletons in her closet and that her early life wasn’t perfect. In return, she gained global respect and adoration among many of her followers.

3. Maya Was the First Female Inaugural Poet

Poem recitations were not popular in presidential inaugurations in the USA, especially for women, let alone African Americans. This was so until Maya happened. She recited a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

The only poet to have ever done it in an inauguration ceremony is Robert Frost, who recited “The Gift Outright” for President J. F. Kennedy. With that, Maya became the first African American to recite a poem in an inauguration ceremony and the first woman to do it.

4. She Had a Ritual for Her Work

In case you are wondering why Maya’s poetry continues to reign even after her death, it’s because she put in a lot of hard work and drank sherry while she wrote. Those close to her said that when Maya became an established writer, she developed a strict, precise writing ritual.

She would start by booking a private room, strip the art from the hotel walls then begin writing. Usually, she would write up to 12 pages daily on a yellow legal pad. Alongside her to quench her thirst and help maintain focus was a bottle of sherry and a pack of cards.

The evenings were strictly for editing. Maya would cut down the 12 pages she wrote daily to about 3 or 4 pages.

5. A Strange Coincidence Happened on Her 40th Birthday

Apart from poetry, Maya Angelou is famous for her role in activism. She was not afraid of talking her mind and standing for what she thought was right. It goes without saying that her visions were in line with those of the great Martin Luther King. In fact, they worked together as coordinators of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

On April 4, 1968, Martin was assassinated, the day Maya celebrated her 40th birthday. Not even the greatest film scriptwriters would have thought of this coincidence at the time. Maya eulogized King as a kind person with a “small and beautiful” voice, which she compared to her younger brother, Bailey.

6. She Is the First African American to Be Featured in a Quarter

The American Quarters Program constitutes famous women that have helped shape American history. Of course, Maya Angelou is one of them. Her first quarter coin was released in 2022, making her the first African American woman to feature on a quarter.

Maya Angelou’s coins started circulating in January 2020. Since then, the mintage total is about 480 million, according to U.S Mint spokesman Michael White.

Categorized in:


Last Update: July 1, 2023