Maya Angelou, born, Marguerite Johnson, was sent along with her brother to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, when her parents were divorced. Growing up, she learned what it was to be a black girl in a world whose boundaries were set by whites: "As a child she always dreamed of waking to find her nappy black hair' metamorphosed to a long blonde bob because she felt life was better for a white girl than for a black girl- (Rigney 45). Despite the odds, her grandmother instilled pride in young Marguerite, with religion as an important element in their home.
After five years of being apart from their mother, Marguerite and her brother, Bailey, were sent back to Saint-Louis to be with their mother. This move would change Angelou's life dramatically. While living in Saint Louis, she was raped by her mothers' boyfriend. After which she confided in her brother what had happened, and soon the person was found dead. Young Marguerite believed her voice had killed him this caused her to become mute for nearly five years. Her dysfunctional childhood spent moving back and forth between her mother and grandmother caused her to struggle with maturity. She became determined to prove she was a woman and began to rush toward maturity. Because of her past, Maya Angelou went on to be an inspiration to men and women across the nation. She has the unique ability to challenge the divisions of race and class throughout her books of poetry and her autobiographies.
Angelou is probably the most widely recognized figure of a poet in contemporary U.S. culture. Her work is found on television, in the movies, on the radio, in print, on the Internet, and at the 1993 presidential inauguration. Given this extraordinary career, she also serves as an exemplary figure to women undergoing many difficulties related to domestic violence and sexual abuse. She has been through what they are encountering, and she offers an important message to all of them: "Hold on, Hold on by all means.