Growing up as a young, black girl in the racist, early 20th century – during the Great Depression era would’ve been tough. Getting raped by your mother’s husband is obviously devastating. Getting pregnant as a teen as a result of questioning yourself and trying to prove something to yourself is traumatic.
“Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn’t know what I was aware of.”
These are some of the major events shaped Maya Angelou’s childhood, but her story emphasized the good in her life as much as the bad. She had her brother Bailey, who she seemed to have a great relationship with as children. They watched after one another and took of each other throughout their whole childhood.
She had her Momma (grandmother) who was a successful, black, entrepreneur. Momma was innovative when necessary – when customers didn’t have enough money to shop at her store, she allowed customers to trade their welfare provisions for store credit. She then used the welfare provisions to feed her family.
There were also other people who inspired her – Mrs Flowers who gave her cookies, books to read aloud, and poems to recite. She met a good friend, Louise, a girl the same age as her – who allowed Maya learn to be a girl, after years of being a “woman”. A high school teacher at a mostly white school named Miss Kirwin who treated Maya the same as everyone else.
Maya Angelou did have a rough childhood – but it’s an interesting read especially knowing that she came out of it a successful poet, author, and civil rights activist. From everything she went through, she seemed to grow from – even if it took time; sometimes years.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Because it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”