Dr. Maya Angelou at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco
In salute of African American living legends, this tribute to Maya Angelou is the first in a series for the 2014 Amoeblog Black History Month. Maya Angelou, who will turn 86 on April 4th, was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. She would go on to live a trailblazing life in which her accolades would include being an activist, author, actress, screenwriter, educator, dancer, singer, poet, and San Francisco cable car operator. In the 1940's during World War II Angelou moved to the city by the bay (she would return to San Francisco a decade later) after winning a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During that time she briefly held a job as a SF cable car operator. Even at that she was a pioneer in her field by being the very first black female cable car conductor. And that would be only one of numerous "firsts" for Angelou during her influential life.
Angelou's 1969 coming-of-age memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which her friend James Baldwin was instrumental in getting published, made literary history for being the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. It also broke records by later enjoying a two-year run on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-seller list. Angelou was also the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced when, in 1972, the film screenplay for the film Georgia, Georgia was adapted from her book.