Maya Angelou

Angelou in 1993, courtesy William J. Clinton Presidential Library

Birth Name: Marguerite Annie Johnson

Date of Birth: April 4, 1928

Place of Birth: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

Date of Death: May 28, 2014

Place of Death: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-American, likely one eighth Irish

Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

Maya was the daughter of Vivian Althea (Baxter) and Bailey J. Johnson. She was African-American, and likely had an Irish-born maternal great-grandfather. Maya had a son. Her surname was from her former husband, Greek electrician and musician Tosh Angelos.

Maya’s paternal grandfather was William Johnson (the son of Simon Johnson and Emaline Lankford). William was born in Arkansas.

Maya’s paternal grandmother was Annie Taylor or Henderson (the daughter of Emanuel Taylor and Mary Kentucky Wafford). Annie was born in Arkansas. Mary Kentucky was the daughter of Wash Wofford and Ailsie.

Maya’s maternal grandfather was named Thomas Baxter (the son of Addison Baxter and Jane). Thomas was born in Georgia.

Maya’s maternal grandmother was named Marguerite/Margaret Savin/Sabin/Seamus or Lee (the daughter of Mary Lee). Marguerite was born in Illinois, and is believed by some researchers to have been the biological daughter of John Savin, who was born in Ireland. Marguerite’s mother, Mary Lee, was African-American.

A DNA test whose results were displayed on the show African American Lives 2 (2008) stated that Maya’s genetic ancestry is:

*77% Sub-Saharan African
*23% European

In his 2009 book about the show, In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote that 55% of Maya’s African DNA came from West Africa, including the Mende people of Sierra Leone, the Mandinka people of Gambia/Senegal, the Balanta people of Guinea-Bissau, and the Fula people, and 45% of Maya’s African DNA came from the Congo-Angola region.

Sources: Genealogies of Maya Angelou –

3 Responses

  1. GLXY says:

    CORRECTION: In his 2009 book based on the series, In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past., Henry Louis Gates wrote on page 37 more details about Maya Angelou’s african ancestry:

    55 % came from West Africa including Mende (Sierra Leone), Mandinka (Gambia/Senegal), Balanta (Guinea-Bissau) and Fula people

    45 % came from Congo-Angola region

  2. fuzzybear44 says:

    To Dr. Maya Angelou,

    Rest in peace

  3. fuzzybear44 says:

    @ Follers

    Thank you,saves me from having to look up everything myself.

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