Maya Angelou (1928–2014) lived an extremely varied life as a performer, activist, educator, and writer. After growing up in different parts of the American South, Angelou spent the first decades of her adult life moving between the East and West Coasts. Initially, she pursued a successful career as a singer and dancer. Then, at the close of the 1950s, she turned her efforts to civil rights activism. In the mid-1960s, after a brief stint abroad in West Africa, her friend James Baldwin encouraged her to write her first book: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). To this day, Caged Bird remains Angelou’s most famous work. There, she details how her love of language blossomed in the traumatic aftermath of sexual violence she suffered at the age of seven. In the following decades, Angelou went on to reinvent herself as a film actor and university professor. Even so, her love of language never left her. For the rest of her life, she remained a prolific writer of memoirs, essays, plays, and, above all, poetry. She received many honors for her lifetime achievement as a public figure, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to her in 2010 by President Barack Obama.