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The Lady of Her Life: Dr. Maya Angelou Remembers Her Mother, Vivian Baxter
Posted: Sun 09/08/2013 02:01 PM
Dr. Maya Angelou's latest book, Mom & Me & Mom, chronicles the deepest personal story of her life: The relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter—a former nurse who ran her own gambling club, pool hall and boarding house. She was as fiery as she was nurturing. Dr. Angelou called her Lady.
Like a lot of mothers and daughters, their relationship was powerful yet complicated. When Dr. Angelou stopped speaking after she was sexually assaulted at age 7, Vivian sent her and her brother to live with their grandmother in Rural Stamps, Arkansas. When Maya turned 13, Vivian called them home to San Francisco. It was at that time Dr. Angelou truly got to know her mother.
Dr. Angelou says the love of her mother, Vivian Baxter, encouraged her to live a life full of pizzazz. It was also that love that helped Dr. Angelou to become the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco at age 16. "I loved the uniforms," Dr. Angelou says. "So I said, 'That's a job I want.'" When she went to get an application, Dr. Angelou says, the staff refused to give her one. Watch below to see how her mother encouraged her to persevere—and find out how Vivian made sure her daughter was safe at work during early-morning shifts.
Dr. Angelou says that to describe her mother "would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power." One particular story from Dr. Angelou's life brings that to light. Watch below to find out how Vivian led the charge to rescue young Maya from an abusive boyfriend, who was holding her against her will for days:
Though Dr. Angelou says Vivian was a "terrible" mother for young children, she was a "fantastic" mother for young adults. When Dr. Angelou was 22 years old, Vivian told her something that changed her life forever. Watch below to find out what it was:
She calls him her greatest blessing. Guy Johnson is often asked what it's like to be Dr. Maya Angelou's son. He says he never felt as if he lived in her shadow. Instead, he lived in her light. Watch below as Guy shares memories of his magnificent mother: