Marguerite Johnson, best known as Maya Angelou, is an author, actress, and poet who has inspired millions with her writing. Growing up in Arkansas, Angelou had a difficult childhood that led to her becoming mute for many years. Due to her traumatic experiences growing up, Angelou produced a memoir that became one of her most popular works. In 1969, Angelou became the first African-American to write a nonfiction best-seller, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In 1952, Angelou wed a Greek sailor, Anastasios Angelopoulos, which is where she got her last name from: a shortened version of her husband’s last name. Her first name, Maya, came from a childhood nickname. During the 1950s, she was a successful performer as she landed a role in Porgy and Bess and the off-Broadway production of Calypso Heat Wave.
In the 1960s, she traveled to Egypt and later lived in Ghana. While in Ghana she took a position at the University of Ghana, and worked as a freelance writer. Years later Angelou returned to the United States, and was encouraged by writer James Baldwin to write about her childhood and growing up. From the well-appreciated encouragement produced I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Over the next few years she would go on to earn a number of different awards for her outstanding writing, and became known as the first African-American woman to have her own screenplay produced, Georgia,Georgia. Angelou passed away May 28, 2014 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was honored by numerous fans and celebrities for being such a strong image for people of all genders and ages.