Maya Angelou, the renowned poet, author and civil rights activist with the unmistakably regal voice, has died. The author of the celebrated autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was 86 years old.
Her death comes less than a week after Angelou announced she would not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, where she was to be honored, citing “health reasons.” Last month, she also canceled an event in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because she was recovering from an “unexpected ailment” that left her hospitalized.
Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson, and was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco, after her parents sent her off to live with her grandmother in California when she was fresh with a white store clerk in Arkansas.
Between Angelou’s fiction, non-fiction, and published verse, she amassed more than 30 bestselling titles
Angelou was also a trailblazer in film. She wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film “Georgia,” and the script, the first-ever by an African-American woman to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
In more recent years, it was her interactions with presidents that made headlines. In 1993, she wowed the world when her reading of her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” was broadcast live globally from former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. She stayed so close with the Clintons that in 2008, she supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy over Barack Obama’s.
She also counted Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as friends, and served as a mentor to Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was starting out as a local TV reporter. When she was in her 20s, Angelou met Billie Holiday, who told her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.
In North Carolina, Angelou lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University.