Maya Angelou wrote incredible poetry. But here are 9 things you might not know she did.

In a 2009 interview with Maya Angelou, Guardian writer Gary Younge summed up the American poet's incredible biography in a perfect way:

"To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn't have to go through half the things she has. Before she hit 40 she had been a professional dancer, prostitute, madam, lecturer, activist, singer, and editor. She had lived in Ghana and Egypt, toured Europe with a dance troupe and settled in pretty much every region of the United States."

Pretty impressive—but that's just the Cliff's Notes version.


Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

The more I learn about Angelou, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 86, the more blown away I am by her intellect, strength, and sense of humor. I also totally get why the media doesn't always tell her whole story: It took Angelou seven full-length autobiographies to get through the whole yarn.

Here are nine facts about the poet that are often cut from media and teaching materials in the interest of saving time — but that prove what a phenomenal human being she really was:

1. She became the first black female streetcar driver in San Francisco...

...when she was 14 years old.

2. She created a 10-part documentary about the influence of African-American culture on the broader American cultural landscape.

She did this while mourning the death of her friend Martin Luther King Jr. (who was assassinated on her birthday), all without having any formal training as a filmmaker.

3. She threw really epic parties.

Even into her 80s, Angelou threw some rocking get-togethers. As she told the New York Times, not even her health problems could get in the way of her life-of-the-party attitude.

Angelou threw a garden party at her home for her 82nd birthday in 2010. Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images.

"One of my lungs is half gone and the other half, because I smoked for years, has a lesion. So I can’t swim anymore and had the swimming pool covered over. Now it’s what I call the dance pavilion, and so I and my friends sit out and put music on and watch people dance."

4. While living in Egypt, she was one of two African-Americans working at any news publication in the Middle East.

The other was W.E.B. Du Bois’ stepson, David Du Bois, who fought hard to persuade The Arab Observer to hire Angelou. He succeeded, and she became the only woman in the publication's newsroom. What's more, Du Bois allegedly used to tell her, "Girl, you realize, you and I are the only black Americans working in the news media in the Middle East?"

5. She definitely knew what was important in life.

Angelou made sure to separate her work from her personal life. Writing was very important to her, but it was, above all, just a job — so she made sure not to do it at home. As Gary Younge wrote in 2009, "When I ask what she does to relax, it sounds as though she mostly naps, only to wake and receive awards."

6. She spoke five different languages, aside from English: French, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, and Fanti, a Ghanaian language.

Photo via Burns Library, Flickr. Used with permission from HistoryBuff.

7. She was totally up front about what she wanted.

Whenever she agreed to be interviewed, she provided the interviewer with a fabulously straightforward list of rules. The rules included:

A meeting dialogue: "Dr. Angelou will often pause prior to speaking or when completing her thought. Please hold your thought until she is finishing speaking."

Room temperature: "Dr. Angelou requires warm rooms. You may choose to remove your jacket or loosen your tie if you find the room too warm."

8. After being sexually abused as a child, Angelou stopped speaking for six years.

That's not awesome at all, obviously, but the way she kept her mind sharp during those years of silence is awesome: She memorized the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.

9. Her music is crazy good.

Here's proof:

Sometimes we forget that famous people like Angelou were also very real human beings who made the world a better place one day at a time.

True

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

Nomination ends November 22, 2020

via Brittany Kinley / Facebook

Brittany Kinley, a mother from Mansfield, Texas, had a hilarious mom fail her and she's chalking it up to being just another crazy thing that happened in 2020.

When Kinley filled out the order form for her son Mason's kindergarten class pictures, there was an option to have his name engraved into the photos. But Kinley wasn't interested in having her son's name on the photos so she wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" on the box.

Well, it appears as though she should have left the box blank because the computer or incredibly literal human that designed the photographs wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" where mason's name should be.

Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

"We couldn't decide on who would be the biological father," Simon told The Daily Mail. "Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did."

Keep Reading Show less
via UDOT / Facebook

In December 2018, The Utah Department of Transportation opened the largest wildlife overpass in the state, spanning 320 by 50 feet across all six lanes of Interstate 80.

Its construction was intended to make traveling through the I-80 corridor in Summit County safer for motorists and the local wildlife.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there were over 100 animal incidents on the interstate since 2016, giving the stretch of highway the unfortunate nickname of "Slaughter Row."

Keep Reading Show less