Born as Marguerite Johnson to Vivian Baxter and Bailey Johnson, and two-year-old brother Bailey. Bailey nicknames his sister Maya. The Johnsons split up when Maya is three, sending their two children to live in Stamps, Arkansas with their paternal grandmother Annie Henderson. During a visit to her mother in St. Louis at age seven, Maya is raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After Maya testifies against him and he is killed by a mob, Maya becomes selectively mute for the next five years. At age 13 Maya’s grandmother takes her and Bailey to live with their mother in California.
In an exclusive interview with Lucinda Moore, Angelou describes her relationship with her mother:
Well, my mom was a terrible parent of young children. And thank God—I thank God every time I think of it—I was sent to my paternal grandmother. Ah, but my mother was a great parent of a young adult.