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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the main reason as to why Maya Angelou broke into the public scene not only as a writer but also a source of inspiration to the human race. It is in the autobiography that Maya Angelou clearly illustrates her first 17 years of life and it immediately awarded her a nomination for the National Book Award (Angelou, 2002). Being called the most visible black woman in the United States of America has come not as an achievement easily earned for an ordinary woman who was born in the year 1928. Maya Angelou has tirelessly worked hard to ensure she earns the tag as a consequence of her hard work in poetry and autobiography.
As a matter of fact, Maya Angelou boasts further of being nominated for the Pulitzer Price when she as a recognition of her volume of poetry that was released in the year 1971. The volume of poetry by Maya Angelou was entitled Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diie. The efforts by Maya Angelou have been further illustrated by the more than 30 honorary degrees that she has earned during her life time (L. Patricia Kite. 2009). It is from such a high point of life that this paper aims at critically analyzing the main points that have been achieved by Maya Angelou. The paper aims at discussing the accomplishments, awards, her background, her writing experiences and aims as a black woman and Maya Angelou as a renaissance woman.
Background (family and school history)
Just like any other child, Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis in 1928 and it had never occurred to her that amidst the harsh conditions she was born in she would become the most significant writer in America among the black women. While she was at the age of seven years, Maya Angelou went through a life breaking event. She had her mother’s boyfriend rape her at the age of seven years (Gillespie, 2008). It was too horrifying for her and she could not confide her ordeal to no one but her brother. It only occurred to her later on that the man had been killed by her uncle.
She was introduced to literature by her mother and grandmother with whom she stayed periodically. Maya Angelou attended George Washington High school from where she earned a scholarship to the California Labor School. It was at this point that she was exposed to vigorous studies in dram and dance (Angelou, 2006). Maya Angelou has on many several occasions credited her success in literature not only to her efforts but most importantly to the role that was played in her education by her teacher and family friend Mrs. Bertha Flowers. It was actually the teacher that offered her introduction to influential people in literature like Shakespeare, Douglas Johnson, Dickens and Weldon Johnson. Several black female artists were also introduced to her and it was as a consequence of this that she successfully went through her career.
Accomplishments, Awards and Nominations
Still in the name of protecting the ‘best African American’ tag that she has already built for herself, Angelou has been nominated for many awards, not only by the government but also by the various universities across the globe, literary organizations, together with special interest groups. It is actually recorded that Angelou has been honored by more than 30 entries all of which have only worked towards appreciating her contribution to the society as a black woman writer and poet. Among the most commonly known awards and honors are: a National Book Award nomination which was due to her contribution to literary works by I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing; her book of poetry which was titled Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diie received a nomination for the Pulitzer Price; her role that was superb in the play Look Away was also highly recognized and received an award nomination from the Tony Award Nominations (Angelou, 2007).
Angelou has also made her career in literary works as a black woman who is not only relevant in the renaissance period but also very much recognized and relevant in the present world by receiving three Grammy awards as recognition for he spoken word albums. Bantam Books which was the publishing company also net ahead in appreciating the efforts that had been made by Angelou in becoming the African American woman writer to have the longest ever running record by the New York Times in the non fiction list of the best sellers. Her record ran for a consecutive two year period which was not an ordinary thing to be accomplished by any writer during that time that was competitive.
It is still amazing that even many years after she has dominated the literary world, Angelou who is currently over 80 years old continues to enjoy the success of her hard work in literature (Angelou, 2008). It is not only in governments and institutions alone but the society as a whole that Angelou’s life as a literal works main contributor continues to be enjoyed. In the year 2000, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts as a result of her works in the two main presidential committees that she had enormously contributed in. this was followed by the Lincoln medal that she was awarded with in the year 2008.
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The poems by Angelou have been a driving force in her success and this can be exclusively seen in her poem that was included in the song by Ben Harper. The poem that was titled And Still I Rise has been appreciated in a very large extent in the song I’ll Rise which is also a place where Angelou has been highly appreciated. To cap it all Angelou has been a recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees from different universities all over the globe. The extent to which the degrees vary in terms of their originality or the university that awards them is a clear sign that Angelou is a true African American figure in the entire globe. Her efforts are appreciated not only in the past years when she was still young but they also go a head till date.
To date, Angelou is known by very many titles and names which are accorded to her as per the main contributions and impacts at she has had to e society. ‘Black woman poet’, ’Author’ and’ Renaissance woman’. These main three titles could not in any way be misjudged by any one as being reflecting to any other individual with Angelou in mind. The very differing titles (with some still remaining unmentioned) act as a very strong justification as to the reason why Angelou continues to be considered as a great contributor to t society. She was in deed a multi talented individual whose life is not worth comparison at all to any other person whatsoever.
As an author, Maya Angelou is best known for her series of autobiographies which are six in number. The series was began by the very famous I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing which was a production that was done in 1969 (Angelou, 2009). Although she personally indicated that the six autobiographies that she wrote had nothing at all to with the first one in terms of continuity, critics of her work have always judged the rest of the autobiographies using the first one as the basis point.
Being the poet that she is highly acclaimed for, Maya Angelou did not get to be referred to using the title from baseless points. As a matter of fact, Maya Angelou boasts of having a prolific career in poems and poetry. Just as was the case by the autobiography business, her first poem was a huge success. Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diie received nomination from the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993, her poetry prowess was seen further when she was chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem, On the Pulse of Morning. This was to mark the occasion of the inauguration of the president. She actually made history by being the very first poet to appear in an inauguration ever since presidency in the United States of America had begun (Angelou, 2010).
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Finally, in regard to the titles that she had, Angelou remains a well renowned African American renaissance woman. The fact that her works have for ever remain to be an inspirational source to the society have ensured that the title that she is accorded as a renaissance woman remains very true and effective.
As is illustrated in the paper, Angelou is a woman whose life can be clearly cited as a success not only to her but the entire society and the globe. Despite the fact that she was born in a very ordinary situation and went through life in an even harder way, Angelou still remained steadfast to ensure that she could finally reap the rewards of her labor in helping and giving to the globe. As a matter of fact, in her own words, she indicates that in al her deeds during her entire life she tries to urge people not to fear survival in the manner attached with grace and faith since with such kind of an approach, defeat remains very far away (Lupton, 2005).