One fact about the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is that she was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. Her professional name is a combination of her childhood nickname "Maya," which her brother Bailey bestowed on her, and the shortened nickname of her first husband Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor and aspiring musician. Angelou's most celebrated literary work was her autobiographical book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

A natural performer, Angelou attended the California Labor School where she won a scholarship to study acting and dance. She became pregnant her last year in high school, and a few weeks after graduation, she gave birth to her only son Clyde "Guy" Johnson. Angelou took a variety of jobs to support herself and her son. She even became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco, a position she held briefly before giving birth.

Angelou was a poet, songwriter, actor, dancer, historian, director, playwright, civil rights activist and teacher. She was friends with Martin Luther King Jr., who died on her birthday, prompting Angelou to stop celebrating her birthday. She wrote "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" after encouragement from her friend James Baldwin. She was also friends with Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey.