Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.
She is usually known for her incredible writings, but not the fact that she had selective mutism. As a child, she was reportedly abused and sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, and when she spoke up, he was convicted, released, and then found dead.
It was said that “The fear that her voice could be used for harm triggered a period of selective mutism” – a form of anxiety disorder marked by a child’s discomfort in speaking in certain environments or situations.
For five years, Maya refused to utter a word. It was in the devastating experience of her silent years that her admiration for books and literature, skilful listening, observing, and memorizing abilities emerged and she rose to be a powerful poet that many admire today.