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Profile: Maya Angelou
Poet and Historian

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"I was a mute from the time I was seven and a half until I was almost 13. I didn't speak. I had voice, but I refused to use it."

As a child, Maya Angelou was traumatized by abuse. For five years, she was silent, but in time, she found her voice, and that voice has been heard around the world. A single mother at age 16, she embarked on a remarkable career as an actress and entertainer, as a journalist, educator and civil rights activist, and finally, as one of the world's most eminent authors and poets.

Her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, created an international sensation when it was first published in 1970. Her books and poems made her one of the world's favorite authors and one of America's best-loved public speakers. President Clinton requested that she compose a poem for his first inaugural in 1993; she read that poem, "On the Pulse of the Morning," to an audience of millions on live television.

A close friend and associate of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Maya Angelou shared her hard-won wisdom -- and the memories of her remarkable life -- through her books, poems, films and through her interview with the Academy of Achievement.

This page last revised on May 28, 2014 12:17 EDT