For What Is Maya Angelou Famous?

Maya Angelou is, among other things, an author, poet and civil rights activist who gained international fame with her book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which was published in 1969. The book was an autobiography recounting Angelou's life experiences until the age of 17. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" made history when it became a bestseller, a first for a female African-American author.

Although Angelou was already a civil rights activist, actor, dancer and singer, it was her book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" that brought her international acclaim. Her book was on the New York Times bestselling paperback list for 2 years and it was considered for the National Book Award in 1970.

Angelou's celebrated memoir has become a reading standard in a number of high schools and universities throughout the United States. Its content, however, has been criticized for graphic depictions of childhood rape, sexuality, racism, violence, pornography and premarital cohabitation. Some schools and libraries have also banned Angelou's book for the same reasons.

Propelled by the success of her memoir, Angelou became a well-known figure. She published several more autobiographies and books of her compiled essays and poetry. Angelou received numerous awards and honorary degrees before her death in 2014. On the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, Angelou recited one of her most famous poems, "On the Pulse of Morning," making her the first poet to do an inaugural recitation since 1961.