What Influenced Maya Angelou to Write?


According to Biography.com, author James Baldwin convinced Maya Angelou to write about her life. The result was the 1969 bestselling memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings;” it led to international recognition for Angelou.

Her memoir was the first non-fiction bestseller by an African-American woman, and it detailed the traumatic experiences that she endured as a child and a young adult.

Born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 1, 1928, Angelou’s parents divorced when she was young, and she and her brother were sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas. There, Angelou experienced racism and discrimination. When she was seven years old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Angelou was so devastated by this incident that she did not speak for many years.

Later, Angelou moved to California where she studied dance and acting at California Labor School. She performed in many off-Broadway plays. In the 1960s, she travelled abroad and worked as an editor and freelance writer. Although she is best known for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Angelou published a few other autobiographies as well. She also wrote collections of poetry, one of which earned her a Pulitzer-Prize nomination. She passed away in 2014, at the age of 86.