Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, United States; the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer. Growing up in rural Stamps, Arkansas, with her brother, Bailey, after her parents divorce, she lived with her pious paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, who owned a general store.
As an African American, Angelou experienced firsthand racial prejudices and discrimination in Arkansas. She also suffered at the hands of a family associate around the age of seven: during a visit with her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend. Then, as vengeance for the sexual assault, Angelou's uncles killed the boyfriend. So traumatized by the experience, Angelou stopped talking. She returned to Arkansas and spent years as a virtual mute.