Maya Anegelou receives the ‘Medal of Freedom’

February 16th, 2011 - 9:00 pm ICT by Aishwarya Bhatt  

Washington DC, Feb 16 (THAINDIAN NEWS) American autobiographer, Maya Anegelou received the highest civilian award in the U.S. in a ceremony in Washington.

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in Missouri, U.S in 1928, she started her career as a stage dancer and civil rights activist in her twenties. During the 1960s, she traveled to Africa where she spent five years working as a teacher and a journalist. Upon her return to the U.S, she published her first autobiography ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ in 1969. And three years later she was nominated for Pulitzer Prize for her Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie poetry collection.

As a child, Maya was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend who was killed just days after she revealed the abuse to her family. She spent the next five years mute thinking that she was reason for the man’s death, “I thought my voice killed him, I killed the man because I told his name. And I then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

A teacher and a family friend helped her overcome her trauma and she was able to speak again.

“Expanding to a sense of compassion and ability to love, by holding on to her humanity, she has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their own lives,” President Barak Obama said of Angelou.

Maya Angelou wrote about her own hardships in an era of racial discrimination in the U.S and she is recognized for her achievements as a human right activist.

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