Maya Angelou (1928–2014) was an African American author and poet, best known for her series of seven autobiographies the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, became an immediate bestseller in 1969. Born in St Louis, Missouri, Angelou suffered a traumatic childhood and as a result did not speak for almost five years. She studied dance and acting in California, and had a son a few weeks after graduating from high school. As a single parent, she looked after her son and took on a variety of jobs. In the 1950s she toured Europe with a production of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, and recorded her first album.
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