Maya Angelou is one of the literary world’s most revered poets and authors. Her incredible story is one that is often used as inspiration for young women all over the world.

Maya Angelou was born on April 4. 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her childhood growing up in St. Louis, MO and Stamps, Arkansas. As a child, she experienced the racial tensions of the times firsthand and went through traumatic experiences within her family life. She was assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seven which results in a revenge murder of the boyfriend by her uncles. Angelou was so traumatized by the experience that one day, she just stopped talking, returning to Arkansas and lived her life as a near mute for years.

During WWII, Angelou moved to San Francisco on a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During her time at school, she became the first African American female cable card conductor in San Francisco.

Upon entering the 1960’s, Angelou spent much of her time in Africa in Egypt and Ghana. She held a position at the University of Ghana for quite some time. During her time spent in Ghana, she joined a community known the “Revolutionist Returnees” that explored pan-Africanism. She began to become close with human rights activist Malcolm X. Angelou returned to the United States in 1964 and helped Malcolm X set up the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Though her work and what she wrote about is important, it’s imperative to focus on her accomplishments throughout her life. She was the first African American woman director in Hollywood when she wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia. She was also twice nominated for a Tony Award in the acting categories.

In 1993, Angelou wrote and delivered a poem entitled “On The Pulse of the Morning” at President Clinton’s inauguration for which she later won a Grammy Award for the album recording. Her accomplishments and awards are numerous included the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014 after experiencing health issues for several years. Then President Obama issued a statement calling her a “brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman” who “had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer.”

A woman that went through some of the most troubling times a person can go through went on to lead an extraordinary life that touched so many individuals and inspired a generation of young women to stand up for themselves and be accepting of who they are.