65 pages 2 hours read

Maya Angelou

The Heart of a Woman

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1981

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Key Figures

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in Saint Louis, Missouri. Her parents, Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter, separated when Marguerite was three and her brother, Bailey, four. The two children were sent by train alone to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, who ran the local General Store with the help of her son, Uncle Willie, who had a disability. Angelou’s first autobiographical narrative, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), presents “Momma Henderson” as a strong, if severe and politically conservative, female role model, who placed a great deal of importance on the education of her young charges. As a child, Angelou soon witnessed the effects of racial segregation and violence. She recalls seeing her grandmother hide her uncle from the Ku Klux Klan and her indignation at the disrespectful behavior of white schoolgirls in the store.

When Angelou was eight years old, her father suddenly arrived unannounced and took the two children to stay with their mother in St. Louis. Angelou recalls that both children admired their mother’s strength and free spirit, even though her work in gambling houses did not permit her to spend much time with them.