Maya Angelou was named Marguerite Ann Johnson at birth. After divorcing her first husband, Tosh Angelos, in 1954, she began a nightclub career in San Francisco and dropped her birth name, taking on the name Maya Angelou. It was her brother, Bailey, who nicknamed her “Maya.”
In 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Angelou, who was living in Accra, Ghana, met Malcolm X while he was visiting there. She decided to accompany Malcolm back to the United States to help him build his expanding Organization of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm was assassinated in 1965 shortly after her arrival.