Dr. Maya Angelou has been a Renaissance woman throughout her life in more ways than many people are aware. Most widely known as a poet, she is also an actress, screenwriter and civil rights activist. She was the first African-American woman to conduct a cable car in San Francisco and the first African-American woman to direct films in Hollywood.
In 1944, World War II opened up jobs to African American women that would have otherwise not been available to them. Angelou was among those who stepped up to fill abandoned jobs by becoming a cable car conductor.
In 1953, she changed her name from Marguerite Johnson to her now famous moniker, initially as a stage name while performing at the Purple Onion. Angelou launched her acting/singing career at this same nightclub in San Francisco, and performed in a world-wide tour the next year with the Everyman's Opera Company's production of Porgy and Bess.
In 1959, Angelou moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. and joined the Harlem Writers Guild. There, she met both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and at King's request became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's northern coordinator. Six years later she moved to Africa with her new husband Vusumi Make, a freedom fighter, where she became an associate editor for the Arab Observer, and later the feature editor of the African Review.
Angelou moved back to the United States in 1970 and published her first novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou later wrote a screenplay and a television mini-series, and in 1974 became the first African-American female movie director in Hollywood.