1) Maya Angelou’s actual name was Marguerite Ann Johnson and her brother, Bailey Jr, actually nicknamed her “Maya.”
2) After being sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, the shock made Maya mute and she and Bailey Jr. were sent to live with her grandmother.
3) The literary icon gives her high school teaher Bertha Flowers credit for helping her to speak again after five years of silence and for igniting her interest in literature. Angelou once stated that the period of silence actually allowed her to absorb her surroundings more intensely.
4) She had a cameo in the 1993 film , Poetic Justice. She met Tupac Shakur on set, made him cry , and didn’t even know who he was.
5) She mastered six other languages besides English, including French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and the West African language Fanti.
6) She considered Oprah Winfrey her dear friend and the daughter she always wanted.
7) She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry.
8) During the time of decolonization, Angelou made the decision in 1961 to relocate to Cairo, Egypt, where she became an associate editor for a weekly English-language newspaper. The following year, Angelou moved to Accra, Ghana, where she lived for five years.
8) She befriendes Malcolm X and planned on helping him build his new Organization of Afro-American Unity before he was killed. Angelou met the black activist Malcolm X while living in Ghana. She moved back to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build his civil rights organization, but he was assassinated shortly after their return. Grieving, she took a step back from the movement, living in Hawaii and LA.
9) According to the New World Encyclopedia, DNA tests taken in 2008 indicated that Angelou was descended from the Mende people of Sierra Leone in West Africa.
10) She was friends with Nelson Mandela , and they first met while she was a journalist in Cairo in 1962. Shortly after his death in Dec. 2013, she recited a poem in memory of the former South African president in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views on the YouTube channel for the U.S. Department of State.
11) She once said that she wanted the following phrase carved on her tombstone: “I did my best, I hope you do the same ».