Photographed by Taylor Jewell
Maya Angelou’s story is well known to most. Raised in the segregated South, and coming of age during the civil rights era, Angelou is the author of seven autobiographies, including, most famously, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It’s one of the best-selling nonfiction books in publishing history—especially popular in middle-school and high-school classrooms tasked with educating its students about race in America. I first read Angelou when I was in the eighth grade. And like so many American schoolchildren, I found her writing made an indelible mark on my understanding of our nation’s complicated history. Angelou stood apart from Shakespeare and Hemingway; she was elegant, poetic, and subtle—even when dealing with some of the darkest moments of her life.