Singer, Dancer, Poetess: Maya Angelou Dead At Age 86
Maya Angelou seen here with President Obama in 2011 when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"After graduation, she and her brother rejoined their mother, who had moved to San Francisco. She attended George Washington High School and won a scholarship to study drama and dance at the California Labor School. To earn pocket money, she worked as a streetcar conductor and was, by her account, the first African American woman to hold the job. At 16, after a clumsy sexual encounter with a neighborhood boy, she became pregnant and gave birth to her son, Clyde Bailey Johnson, nicknamed Guy. She graduated from San Francisco's Mission High School and struggled to raise her son on her own through a succession of jobs, including 'a shake dancer in nightclubs, fry cook in hamburger joints, dinner cook in a Creole restaurant and once had a job in a mechanic's shop, taking the paint off cars with my hands.' In San Diego, she was a madam who managed a couple of prostitutes. For a period of time, she was addicted to drugs. In 1949, she married a white ex-sailor, Tosh Angelos, but they divorced after three years. Commandingly tall at 6 feet, with a deep voice and theatrical manner, she moved to New York to study dance, then returned to San Francisco, sharing billing as a singer at the Purple Onion cabaret with comedian Phyllis Diller, who would become a close friend. Riffing off her ex-husband's last name and her brother's nicknames for her, she began performing as Maya Angelou. She won a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess and performed in 22 countries from 1954 to 1955." [Source] Rare photos after the jump of this wonderful human.