Today is the 90th birthday of Maya Angelou. Born on April 4 1928, she lived a number of fascinatingly different lives — as a singer, storyteller, activist, poet and sex worker.
She died in 2014, but her depictions of black lives, the power of the human spirit and the strength of women will always be remembered.
1. She drank sherry while she wrote
Angelou had a very precise writing ritual. She would book a hotel room, strip the art from the walls and write 10-12 pages a day on a yellow legal pad with a bottle of sherry and a pack of cards for company. In the evening she would edit her work down to 3-4 pages, repeating this everyday until she was finished.
2. She was mute for five years
Angelou spent five years in silence after her rapist was murdered by her uncle. She believed her voice was responsible for his death. Years later in times of stress Angelou would often retreat into mutism referring to it as “addictive”.
3. Martin Luther King Jr. died on her 40th birthday
Angelou was a civil rights activist in America working alongside Luther King as the northern coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. According to Maya, King reminded her of her younger brother Bailey with his “small, beautiful speaking voice”. King was assassinated on April 4 1968, Angelou’s 40th Birthday.