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Maya Angelou 'memoie of s, so why? put in a bird cage sings, takes place during atime when the laws of segregation have ruled most of the south. cos', as the strength of his habe estimate of s? influenced by the law

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  1. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. In 1931, when she was three years old, her parents divorced and she and her 4-year old brother, Bailey, were sent alone, by train, to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. While living with her grandmother, Angelou participated in a wide variety of dance classes including tap, jazz, foxtrot, and salsa.

    After four years in Stamps, the children returned to their mother’s care in California. At age eight, Angelou confessed that her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freemen, had sexually abused her, and Angelou’s uncles beat the man to death. Horrified by the outcome, she became mute, believing, as she has stated, that “the power of [her] words led to someone’s death.” She remained nearly mute for five years, at which point her mother sent the children to live with their grandmother once again. Angelou credits a close friend in Stamps, Mrs. Flowers, for helping her “re-find her voice.”

    She began to speak again at age 13 and returned to live with her family. She graduated 8th grade with honors at the Lafayette Country Training School. In 1940, while spending the summer with her father in the Los Angeles area, Angelou was assaulted by her father’s live-in girlfriend, which led to her running away from home and spending a month as a resident of a junkyard that housed other homeless children. She finally called her mother and was sent a ticket back home to San Francisco, but her month of homelessness had a profound effect on her way of looking at the world. As she says in p. 254 of Caged Bird, “After a month my thinking processes had so changed that I was hardly recognizable to myself. The unquestioning acceptance of my peers had dislodged the familiar insecurity…After hunting down unbroken bottles and selling them with a white girl from Missouri, a Mexican girl from Los Angeles and a Black girl from Oklahoma, I was never again to sense myself so solidly outside the pale of the human race. The lack of criticism evidenced by our ad hoc community influenced me, and set a tone of tolerance in my life.”

    Angelou’s first work of literature, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is an autobiography that was published in 1969. Angelou’s disruptive life inspired her to write this book. It reflects the essence of her struggle to the restrictions that were placed upon her in a hostile environment. Angelou wrote with a twist of lyrical imagery along with a touch of realism. The title of this book is taken from the poem “Sympathy” by the great black poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar.

    She spent part of her young life in the South living with her paternal grandmother. It was there she encountered the prejudice of the Old South.


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