December 20, 2014
Poet Maya Angelou dies at 86
American author and poet Maya Angelou, an eloquent commentator on race and gender best known for her groundbreaking autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," has died at age 86 in North Carolina.
The prolific African-American writer died quietly at her home in Winston-Salem, Angelou's family said in a statement.
"She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love," her family said.
Angelou penned more than 30 books, won numerous awards, and was honored last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community. Her latest work "Mom & Me & Mom," about her mother and grandmother and what they taught her, was released last year.
In her last tweet on May 23, Angelou said, "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
Literary and entertainment figures, politicians and fans mourned her passing.
President Barack Obama called her "a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman."
"With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer," Obama said in a statement from the White House.In addition to her many books, Angelou also directed, wrote and acted in movies, plays and television programs and was a singer, songwriter, educator and popular lecturer. She was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums.
Active in the US civil rights movement in the 1960s, Angelou worked with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. For years she did not celebrate her birthday because it coincided with the anniversary of King's assassination."I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," a coming-of-age story in a hostile society in the American South in the 1930s and '40s that deals with racism and rape, is considered an American classic.
Angelou, who was 6 feet tall and possessed a regal speaking voice, was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She spent part of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother after her parents divorced.
At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou's uncles. The trauma of the rape and her assailant's death left Angelou mute for six years.
Her devoted readers found plenty of inspiration in the works of Angelou, who once summed up her approach to life by saying: "Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, 'I'm with you, kid. Let's go.'"