Born on April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Annie Johnson, in St. Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou was destined to experience a struggling childhood due to tense cultural differences amidst a racist-filled society. Maya, however, was one of many who would not let society keep her down because of the color of her skin. Instead, she stood up to fight for her culture's freedom from discrimination; her weapon of choice: literature. Maya knew the mighty power of literature and the influence of stories. Although some in her time turned to violence, Maya turned to books.
Aside from culutral tensions, her family life was difficult as well. Between her parents' divorce at seven, being raped by her mother's boyfriend, and then upon knowing her uncle killed her mother's boyfriend for raping her, Maya had already experienced much in only a little amount of time. But it is only through her struggles that she could have an even greater influence upon society. However great the conflict may be, an even greater victory lies ahead to those who are able to reach it. And Maya was one who would not let her struggles define her.
It wasn't until 1969 that her career as an author took off. By then, she had already been through so much in her life; such as becoming pregnant at only sixteen years old, successfully performing in Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and traveling the world as a freelance writer. Needless to say, there was much to write about. Through her personal experiences, a book was born: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." This work of literature single-handedly established her career as an author and gave her name international fame. Like a stream of water flowing into the ocean, her book inspired much more which would only add to her popularity and set her upon a stage in which she would use as a platform to help other civil rights activists, such as Martin Luther King, to speak out against the violent hatred directed toward the African American culture.
After receiving many awards for her authorship and memoirs and gaining many powerful friends from a life well lived, she finally laid to a peaceful rest on May 28, 2014. Her life offered dierction and counsel. Her experiences teach wisom and knowledge. She was a great woman who feared no battle. Every situation was an opportunity. Every breath was another chance. Her values indicate hope. Hope that no matter what challenges we face, we can still aspire to something greater that ourselves. That greatness is waiting for us to reach out and grab it. Maya showed us that it is possible.