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Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, MO, on April 4, 1928, and is still alive today. As a child, she faced many hardships and traumas. When Angelou writes she has the “phenomenal power of rhythm of words” (Shelton 20). Angelou is a very respected individual despite the fact that she was a black woman growing up when prejudice towards blacks was a major issue and women had little or no rights. In her poems, “In My Missouri,” “Equality,” and her novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings it is evident that Angelou has led a very rough, but outstanding life and her life experiences are truly reflected in her writings.
Angelou’s parents were more fortunate than most black families. Her father, Bailey Johnson, was a navy cook, and her mother Vixian Baxter, was a nightclub performer as well as a owner of a large rooming house in San Francisco (Andrews 19). In the early 1930’s, sadly her parents were divorced and “...her father sent her and her brother, Bailey, by train, with name tags on their wrists, to live with his mother, Momma Henderson” (Andrews 19). When Angelou turned seven years old she wished to move back to her mothers house in Missouri.
When Angelou was eight years old she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
Angelou was so devastated by the rape that she refused to speak for approximately five years. Because she was so traumatized by her rape she began reading wildly which sparked her life long career (Andrews 19). Angelou says
about her own rape experience, “The act of rape on a eight-year-old body is a
matter of the needle giving because the camel can’t. The child gives, because the body can and the mind of the violator can’t”’ (Magill 216). Angelou also wrote a poem about her mother’s boyfriend who raped her. The poem is titled “In my Missouri.” This particular poem expresses her feelings towards him.
In my Missouri
I had known a mean man
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