Maya Angelou, a fixture of American Literature and one of our modern stateswomen has died at the age of 86. She was found in her Winston Salem home this morning by her regular caretaker.
Angelou is perhaps best known as a poet and autobiographer although she has also been an activist, playwright, actor, director, fry cook, prostitute, and lecturer. Her formative years were full of trauma, abuse, broken families and a period of 5 years when she was completely mute. As an adult, her professional and social circles were inhabited by the likes of MLK, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and many more.
She became a more nationally recognized figure after the publication of her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1969. In the years that followed, she was a flurry of productivity and amassed a long list of awards, including over 30 honorary degrees. Many also remember her from the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton where she read her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning.”
Much of her later years were spent as a professor at Wake Forest University although she continued to write, perform, lecture and be politically active.
If you aren’t familiar with her work, click here to learn more about her life and work.