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AT&T Presents: Listen 2 Learn! Maya Angelou

  • Broadcast in Education



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It’s no secret that Maya Angelou is a master chronicler of her own life and often hard times. But despite her burdens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer has always overcome them with dignity and humor. After her parents split up in 1931, Maya moved from her hometown of St. Louis to San Francisco with her mother and brother. Twelve years later, she would break her first racial barrier by becoming that city’s first black female streetcar conductor. “I was 15. I’d come back from being with my father in San Diego. And I had missed about four weeks of school. But I was ahead, so my mother I didn’t have to go to school that semester – but I had to have a job,” she tells host Judy Joy Jones. “I had seen women on the streetcar in their uniforms with their change belt, and they looked so cute. So I went down to apply for a job. And I didn’t notice there were no blacks. I just saw women.  But no one would even offer me an application. So I went back to my mother and I was really devastated.  She asked me, ‘Do you know why?’ I said, ‘Yes, because I’m a negro.’ She said, ‘Do you want the job?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ Then go get it,’ she said. ‘You be there before the secretaries come in the morning. And you stay there. And when they go to lunch, then you go to lunch. But be back before the secretaries.’ Well, I did it.  And I’ll tell you, I almost died. Because the girls who worked there were so rude. But I sat there. So after about two weeks, a man came out of the office and asked me, ‘You want to work on the streetcars?’ He asked me what kind of experience I had. I lied. I told him I had been a chaufferette by the name of Annie Henderson in Stamps, Arkansas. Annie Henderson was my grandmother. I don’t even think she had ever even ridden in a car. They gave me the job though!”