Trigger warning: sexual assault and rape
During Black History Month it is important to recognise influential black figures who have made an invaluable impact on the world.
Maya Angelou, one of the most prominent writers of all time, is one such figure.
Having written 36 books, one of the most well-known being the autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she has become a powerhouse in the literary world.
Through reading her books you are able to see just how strong a woman she was her entire life, especially after going through much trauma as a young girl.
Born in April 1928, Angelou suffered the split of her parents at a very young age, and as a result moved with her brother to their grandmother’s home in Stamps, Arkansas. Growing up, she had various first-hand experiences of racial discrimination and at the age of 7 was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
Her rapist was convicted, released, and then found murdered by, assumingly, Angelou’s uncles. Following this traumatic event Angelou didn’t speak for many years as she was frightened by the power that her voice held, thinking that, by telling the truth, it was her fault this man had ended up dead.
Unfortunately, the hardships she faced did not stop there.
However, she eventually found her voice again and embarked on her journey of fighting the good fight, going on to live an extremely remarkable life.
She went on to become the first black San Francisco cable car conductor; become a mother at 16; dabble in prostitution and drug use; begin her career as a performer, starring in off-Broadway productions; become a journalist in Egypt; write films; and become heavily involved with the civil rights movement, working with leaders such as Malcom X and Martin Luther King.
That doesn’t even scratch the surface of Angelou’s life.
It is no wonder she decided to document her years on this earth, and we are all very lucky to have been graced with her wisdom and strength.
Maya Angelou is an inspiration to the black community as she was a strong, black woman who fought for equal rights and wasn’t afraid to speak up about the injustices that plague the world. She has commanded herself a position within society that will never be forgotten.
Angelou proved that no matter what trauma you go through, or what barriers you face, you are able to achieve amazing things. There is nothing that you can’t overcome and you should never let anything stop you from living a life that is truly remarkable.
I think she is the definition of exceptional. I hope that future generations will remember her name, her story, and what she brought to the world, and when asked who they look up to they will reply: “Maya Angelou.”
“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou 4th April 1928 – 28th May 2014
Featured Image Credit: The Reader