Black Disabled Leaders Series

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse and Murder

Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou smiling and showing her book. Her hands are prompted up on top and she has her chin on top of her hands.

Dr. Maya Angelou was a poet, author, and civil rights activist. I can also add a very important Black Disabled Leader.

Many who have read her work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sang, knew the traumatic childhood she went through. Angelou, at the age of 8, was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. When she spoke up about it, he was found guilty but only went to jail for one day. When he got out, he was murdered four days later. This resulted in her becoming mute for five years.

She said “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name,” she also said, “And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

Angelou had selective mutism which is an anxiety disorder that causes a child to have the inability to speak due to physical and psychological trauma.

Maya Angelou head tilted to the side. Her eyes are close and she’s laughing!

Although the cause of her disability was devastating and heartbreaking, her disability gave her the ability to flourish and have admiration for books. She also gained listening, memorizing, and observing abilities. All these skills helped her not only gain her voice back but be successful in her career.

Dr. Maya Angelou used her abilities, her experiences, and her stories to be a voice and give a voice for the voiceless. As though she may not physically be with us, she still is with us through her words. She will always and forever be a Phenomenal Woman.

Colored picture of Maya Angelou smiling into the camera

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