If you were to ask where I get my love of writing from, those close to me will tell you Maya Angelou hands down! After reading “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in the 9th grade, that is when my love of writing was ignited. Since it is Black History Month, I wanted to share some amazing facts about the book that started my love of writing. Here are facts about Maya Angelou from how she began to write her first book to what influenced her book’s title!
- Maya Angelou wrote “I know Why The Caged Bird Sings” when she was 40 years old (it’s never too late to start writing ladies!)
- The idea to write her autobiography started at a dinner party her friend, and mentor, James Baldwin (African-American writer) took her to so she could be in better spirits.
- Angelou was depressed after the assassination of her good friend Martin Luther King Jr. (He was assassinated on April 4, 1968. April 4th is also Angelou’s birthday)
- At this dinner party, hosted by Jules Feiffer (cartoonist), the guests shared stories of their childhood and Feiffer’s wife Judy was so impressed with Angelou’s stories of her childhood that she called Robert Loomis from Random House to assist her in writing an autobiography. He would later assist her for the rest of Angelou’s writing career.
- Maya at first resisted writing an autobiography because she saw herself as a poet and playwright.
- James Baldwin and Robert Loomis challenged Maya to write her autobiography as a fiction tale because they told her it could not be done.
- I know why The Caged Sings was written in London.
- It took Angelou two years to write her autobiography.
- Identity, rape, and racism are the themes of the book.
- The book was written about Angelou’s childhood in Stamps, Arkansas.
- The book’s title comes from a poem by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (his poem is a must read!)
- Paul Dunbar’s poem “I know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is about the slaves that were chained. Maya would use this as a symbol of her childhood filled with racism.
- The book’s central character has been referred to as a symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America.
- The book was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970
- It was on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for 2 years.
Some things on this list I did not know until I did some research. Some things I knew, and some things I got revelation on. I fell in love with this book which took me on this journey as a writer. I was also able to see Maya Angelou speak at SDSU in San Diego when I was 19 years old! There are many women from my history who I truly admire, but I have to say out of all the women who I respect, Maya Angelou takes the top!
I am grateful for our rich history filled with many women who paved the way for us now. If it was not for their struggle for equal rights and pushing boundaries, we would not be able to be writers, business women, activist and so much more.
I pray that my post has inspired you, and that I was able to show you why I love Maya Angelou. God bless!
What African-American writers have personally inspired you, and why?