Marguerite Ann Johnson, better known as Maya Angelou, was born 4 April 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter. Bailey worked as a doorman, navy dietitian, and taxi driver while Vivian was a nurse and card dealer, and easily distracted by her pursuits -- a trait which made her sometimes carry motherhood as a burden, according to Maya.
Marguerite's older brother Bailey Jr., nicknamed her "Maya".
Around 1932, her parents ended their tumultuous marriage and her father sent the children by train to live with his mother, Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. Annie, or Momma as her grandchildren called her, unlike so many other African-Americans living during this time period, had prospered financially because her general store sold basic items people needed and because she made "honest, wise investments".
Four years later, Maya's father showed up again without warning. He and the two children are shown in his brother's home, along with his mother Annie, in 1940. He soon after sent the children back to the care of Vivian in St. Louis.
At the age of 8, while still living with her mother, Maya was abused and raped by Vivian's boyfriend, a man named Freeman. Maya told her brother, who then told the rest of her family. Freeman was tried and found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was kicked to death, probably by relatives of Maya's.
Maya and her brother were sent back to live with their Grandmother Annie. Maya blamed herself for Freeman's death, thinking that because she spoke his name, he'd died, and so for five years she did not speak.
It was during this period of silence that Maya developed her remarkable memory, her love of books and her ability to listen and observe. She eventually started to speak again with the help of her grandmother's friend, Mrs. Bertha Flowers.
At 17, she gave birth to her only child, a son, Clyde, better known as Guy Johnson.
Maya worked a variety of jobs in her life including fry cook, sex worker, night club dancer, singer/songwriter, cast member of a stage production of Porgy and Bess, journalist, and first female streetcar conductor, which all contributed to her better known occupations of author, poet, speaker, professor, and actress.
Maya was married twice, first to Tosh Angelos from 1951 to 1954, and then to Paul de Feu from 1974 to 1983. Maya took the name Angelou during her marriage Tosh, having fashioned it after his surname. She had other lengthy relationships, but no other confirmed marriages.
During the course of her life, Maya published seven autobiographies, several books of poetry, three books of essays, as well as writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays, television, and movies.
She made a point to learn the language of every country she visited.
She received numerous awards and was also the recipient of over 30 honorary doctoral degrees. One of her greatest honors was receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011.
She was memorialized with several services, and her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, rose to number 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. 
Maya Angelou was cremated and her ashes were scattered.
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