Maya Angelou contributed to black history as a poet, activist, singer, dancer, actor, screenwriter and author of the memoir and first nonfiction bestseller by an African-American, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." She won dozens of awards for her artistic works and held over 50 honorary degrees.
Maya Angelou played an active role in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X. She was a respected spokesperson and noted defender of African-American culture.
Angelou was an extremely prolific writer, writing seven autobiographies, of which "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," was the first and brought her international acclaim. These autobiographies focus on the themes of racism, identity, travel and family. Her poetry collection, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die," was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her writings are used as reading material at schools and universities around the world.
At President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, she read one of her most famous poems, "On the Pulse of Morning." Angelou was born on April 14, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, and she died on May 28, 2014. Before she became famous, she worked in a multitude of professions, including cook, dancer, prostitute and journalist.