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15 Most Interesting Facts About Maya Angelou You May Not Have Known

Maya Angelou

Her Real Name Was Not Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was named Marguerite Ann Johnson at birth. After divorcing her first husband, Tosh Angelos, in 1954,  she began a nightclub career in San Francisco and dropped her birth name, taking on the name Maya Angelou. It was her brother, Bailey, who nicknamed her “Maya.”


young maya angelou

She Was Mute For 5 Years After Sexual Abuse

When she was just 8, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, in St. Louis. Angelou told  her brother Bailey and he told the family. Freeman was arrested, but served only one day in jail for his brutality. Four days after his release, he was found dead. There were rumors that Angelou’s uncles sought revenge.

Following the incident, Angelou became mute for almost five years.  In “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,”  her first autobiography, she wrote, “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

The literary icon gave her high school teacher Bertha Flowers credit for helping her to speak again after half a decade of silence.

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