Dr. Maya Angelou has died at her home in North Carolina. The distinguished and award-winning poet, memoirist, author, actress and civil rights activist was 86-years-old.
Winston Salem's FOX 8 was the first to report the news. Angelou has been in ill health recently and was briefly hospitalized.
Angelou's groundbreaking 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings describes her childhood in the racist and Jim Crow South. The book "was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century Black woman to reach a wide general readership," notes the New York Times.
[A]s she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its five sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Afterward, her six-volume memoir takes her only to the age of 40, Ms. Angelou was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor ; ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows, from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies
Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual.
President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in February 2011. But it was almost twenty years earlier in January 1993 when Dr. Angelou's brilliance received world attention when she recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural ceremony. This may have been the very first time that the word "gay" was used in the context of same-sex love at a presidential inauguration.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Dr. Angelou was later appointed the United States' Poet Laureate. Watch Dr. Angelou recite her poem at the Clinton inaugural AFTER THE JUMP ...
Angelou was a prominent supporter of LGBT issues. The acclaimed memoirist lobbied Democratic New York State senators on marriage equality in the summer of 2009 on behalf of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "To love someone takes a lot of courage," said the 81-year-old Harlem resident. "So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?"
Angelou’s birth name was Marguerite Annie Johnson. She was fluent in 6 languages. "Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college," adds FOX 8. "She has received over 50 honorary degrees and was Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University."
Dr. Angelou is famous for many sayings and one of the more well-known is this statement: "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Another saying that she famously told Oprah Winfrey on the latter's talk show: "Believe people when they show you who they are the first time." Oprah says that revelation "changed" her life.
Dr. Angelou may have transitioned from earth but her words and wisdom will live forever. Rest in peace and power, Dr. Maya Angelou.
Watch Dr. Angelou at the Clinton inaugural, recite Still I Rise, share her wisdom on Oprah and other moments AFTER THE JUMP ...
Dr. Angelou recites her famous inspirational poem Still I Rise ...
Dr. Angelou recites her poem On the Pulse of the Morning at the Clinton inaugural ...
Here is Dr. Angelou on the night that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States ...
An appearance on Sesame Street...
One of my favorite appearances by Dr. Angelou on Oprah ...