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Maya Angelou was an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer and civil rights activist.
She was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928.
As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
She served on two presidential commissions – President Gerald Ford appointed her to the Bicentennial Commission and President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Commission for International Woman of the Year.
She wrote and performed “On The Pulse of the Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. And President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou wrote, produced, directed and starred in productions for stage, film and television. She wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia. She also wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries.
Angelou is probably best known for her autobiographies and poetry. She wrote six autobiographies, most notably “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
She was also a prolific and widely-read poet. “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie,” which was published in 1971, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972.
In 2013 she was the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.
She died in 2014 at the age of 86.