Tap to Read ➤

Maya Angelou Timeline

Reshma Jirage
Maya Angelou's works and performances reflected her versatile personality throughout her life. Her life timeline reveals that in spite of struggles she rose to be a role model for people.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
―Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was a renowned poet, dancer, film and television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor, and civil rights activist. She was always recognized as an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Her poems inspired everyone, because she emphasized on looking to the future with hope and courage. Separation from her mom at a young age did not destroy her passion for life and her ability to find the pleasure in daily routine at Stamps, Arkansas.
Maya Angelou life was all about various struggles and obstacles, and how she overcame all of them to fight for what was right and lead a life according to her own terms. The timeline of Maya Angelou here would describe a young African-American woman's discovery of self-confidence.

Timeline of Maya Angelou's Life


Maya Angelou, originally known as Marguerite Ann Johnson was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She was the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a nurse and card dealer.

Her elder brother named her Maya, which was his interpretation of 'My Sister'.


Her parents, Vivian and Bailey got separated, and Maya and her brother were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with her paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, who was a prosperous lady, which was quite contrary to most African-Americans of those times.


Her dad suddenly showed up in Stamps, and they were returned to their mother in St. Louis.


Unfortunately, Maya was sexually abused. Her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman raped her. Maya was highly shocked and she became dumb. Both the children were sent back to their grandmother once again.


Maya and her brother returned to San Francisco to live with their mother, where she attended the George Washington High School. She studied drama and dance on a scholarship at the California Labor School.


At school, one of her teachers, Bertha Flowers, took special care of her and helped her to talk again and increased her interest in literature.

She dropped out of school to become San Francisco's first African-American female cable car conductor, while she was still in her teenage.


Maya returned to high school, but she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, named Guy.

She left her home to bring up her son as a single mother, working as a cook and waitress.


She married a Greek sailor namely Tosh Angelos. However, her marriage ended soon.

She started her career as a nightclub singer. During this period, she was recognized by her stage name, Maya Angelou.


Maya toured with the opera Porgy and Bess.


She recorded her first album, 'Calypso Lady'.

She performed in an off-Broadway play, 'Calypso Heat Wave'.


Maya developed her skills in writing poetry and moved to New York. She joined the Harlem Writer's Guild in New York.


Maya got involved with the Civil Rights activists. She became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


She met Vusumzi Make, a South African Civil Rights activist. Both of them, along with Guy, moved to Cairo, Egypt, in 1960. In Cairo, she worked as an editor of The Arab Observer, a weekly magazine published in English.


Maya moved to Ghana and worked for the University of Ghana as an assistant administrator.


Maya Angelou returned to America in order to help Malcolm X build his new venture, the Organization of African-American Unity.


Malcolm X was assassinated. Maya started working on her autobiographical book 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'.


Her Autobiographical book was published. It turned out to be a big success.


Georgia, Georgia, whose screenplay was written my Maya, becomes the first movie to be filmed in which the screenplay had been written by an African-American woman.


Maya married Paul du Feu and both moved to Sonoma, California, along with her son. Then she worked on her writing and acting.


Her book 'Gather Together in My Name' was published.


Her book Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas was published.


Her famous book 'The Heart of a Woman' was published. In the same year, she divorced Paul du Feu.


Maya met well-known television personality Oprah Winfrey. They got along really well, and Maya became her mentor and friend.


'All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes' was published.


Maya read her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration ceremony of President Bill Clinton.


Her book 'A Song Flung Up to Heaven' was published.


Following the death of Michael Jackson, Maya wrote a poem in his honor, which was read by Queen Latifah at his memorial.


On the morning of May 28, 2014, Maya passed away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

List of Awards


Maya received the Chubb Fellowship Award, Yale University.


She received the Pulitzer Prize nomination for 'Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie'.


Received the Ladies' Home Journal Award (Woman of the Year in communication).


Received the Golden Eagle Award, Afro-American in the Arts.


Maya won the Fulbright Program 40th Anniversary Distinguished Lecturer Award.


The Langston Hughes Medal was offered to Maya Angelou.


Maya won the prestigious Grammy Award for 'Best Spoken Word Album' 'On The Pulse of Morning'.


Maya was offered the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Association National Award.


Maya Angelou received the Mother Teresa Award. In the same year, she hosted a weekly radio talk show for the first time for XM Satellite Radio's Oprah & Friends channel.


Maya Angelou was the first recipient of the Hope for Peace and Justice Voice of Peace Award.


Maya was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.