20th Century Genius Award Paper
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The present paper is concerned with the review of a life and creativity of the American writer Maya Angelou. This essay explains why Maya Angelou deserves the 20th Century Genius Award and estimates Angelou’s impact on the arts and culture.
Keywords: literature, arts, political activism, Afro-Americans
I would like to present the 20th Century Genius Award to Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou is one of the most distinguished and powerful voices of our time because of her ingenious writing mastery and mind. I chose to give 20th-Century Genius Award to Maya Angelou, a graceful poet whose strength of character and eagerness to communicate fairly and publicly through her poetry has won her worldwide applause. She has written multitude of books that have given her grand success what confirms her genius.
Maya Angelous regretful life events inspired her to write autobiographical books. Her experiences and the occurrences learned encouraged her to aid others become brave. Maya Angelou is not only a writer, an actress, a filmmaker, a civil-rights activist, and most essentially, a survivor. Information about Angelou’s life can assist us to comprehend her ideas.
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. When in 1931 Angelou’s parents divorced her father sent her and her brother Bailey to live with their grandmother. Her mother went to Chicago and start living with her friend there. Maya’s grandma has had an immense authority on her upbringing and she is very grateful to her grandmother for it.
In 1935, the children returned to their mother’s care. At age seven, Angelou acknowledged that her mother’s lover had raped her. Shocked by what happened, she became mute, believing, as she has stated, “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…”(“Conversations with Maya Angelou”, 1989). She stayed mute for five years, and her mother sent Angelou and her brother to live with their grandma again. Maya studied George Washington High School in San Francisco where she got a scholarship to study dance and drama. Then she left school to become first African American female cable car conductor.
In 1952, she began her career as a nightclub singer and her performing career prospered. Also she journeyed Europe with the opera “Porgy and Bess” and danced with Alvin Ailey on television shows. In 1957, Angelou recorded her first album which called “Calypso Lady”.
In the late 1950s she moved to New York City, where she enrolled the Harlem Writers Guild and took place among the growing number of young black writers and artists binded with the Civil Rights Movement. She performed in the historical play “The Blacks” and produced a Cabaret for Freedom (with Godfrey Cambridge).
In the United States Maya have close relationship with the African political activist V.Make and later they moved to Egypt. In Egypt, in Cairo, Angelou worked as the editor in the local newspaper.
In 1962, her affair with Make finished, and she transferred to Ghana where Angelou met with the American dissident leader Malcolm X. There she worked at the University of Ghana, performed and wrote plays.
In mid 1960s Angelou involved in TV as a producer and also worked nearly with Martin Luther King, Jr. who asked her to arrange a march, but he was killed on her birthday (April 4, 1968). Affected by a meeting with James Baldwin, she reached alleviation in writing, and began write the book that would become “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. There is a story about her life from her birth in Missouri until the birth of her son Clyde. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was published in 1969 and had unusual success. This book was nominated for a National Book Award. Maya Angelou has written many books and few of her most popular books have become films. Maya Angelou is the first African-American woman movie maker in Hollywood. She has written and directed productions for stage, film, and television. In early 1970s, she wrote a scenario for the film “Georgia, Georgia” which was nominated for Pulitzer Prize. Since the 1980s until today, Angelou has taken part in the cultural and political life of the United States.
Maya Angelou is very honored for her useful contributions to contemporary literature. She is a legendary person in the American literature and poetry. Also she played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement close by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and her works have been an impact for many people. Maya Angelou has devoted her life to end bigotries fronted by many Afro-American women in the 20th century.
As a writer and poet, she is known best for her brave portrayal of African-American women. Some of her most eminent works are the series of autobiographies that she wrote about her childhood. Angelou has
broken many obstacles for African-American women in writing, entertainment, and in movie making. The most famous work of Maya Angelou is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” which a very disputatious novel dealing with many serious issues including freedom and absence of freedom. Both “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Song to the Men of England” show social unfairness, splits between the rich and the poor. I truly that she wrote these two books because of the personal experiences she encountered in her life.
Another essential theme which recognized as reflecting genius in her works and her character is Africa because Angelou lived in Ghana for the few years and wrote about it in “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes”. For Maya Angelou, Africa’s nature and history are an origin of pride; its black residents are a criterion of beauty.
“When I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in the end of 1960s, Angelou was acclaimed as a new type of memoirist, the first African woman which was able to debate her private life in public. According to that point, African-American female writers were isolated to the point that they were unable to introduce themselves as central characters. Her autobiographical books establish a usage not only for African-American women writers, but for the kind of autobiography at all. Through the writing of her autobiography, Angelou had become awared and very honoured as a orator for Afro-Americans. It made her one of the most obvious African writer autobiographer.
Although she underwent the negativity of racial distinctions, she also saw how expressive would be her own African-American traditions and how essential it is to be proud of who you are. The integrity, courage and hope which Maya Angelou has shared to the world through her works have made her individual contribution very influential for cultural development.
Maya Angelou as a mature woman starts to understand the consequence of self-respect and taking pride in being African-American. She retains her descendants, especially her mother and her grandma who both were very proud and as much independent as the circumstances allowed. So Angelou is famous for her courage and is able to say: “We must replace fear and chauvinism, hate, timidity and apathy, which flow in our national spinal column with courage, sensitivity, perseverance and love. And by love I mean the condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage” (“America`s Renaissance Woman”, 2005). In all her books, Angelou shows her courage as an African-American woman. As she writes about her struggles, she is also writing about the struggle of all African-Americans against distinctions.
I consider that Angela deserves a rank of the genius because her poems and books are very talented and political activity has already become a history. She is still living today and I believe her legend will never die. She is a people’s poet that’s why her poems aim at audiences of all colors and creeds. She remembers the good times and the bad and wrote about them both. Her experiences learned encouraged to help others become strong and her motto: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated” (“Conversations with Maya Angelou”, 1989). Anyway, her passion for survival has motivated many ordinary people all over the world.
America`s Renaissance Woman. Academy of Achievement. (29 Aug 2005). Retrieved from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ang0bio-1
Jeffrey, E., Elliot, M. (1989) Conversations with Maya Angelou, London: Virago Press. Retrieved from