Maya Angelou dies aged 86

Author and poet Maya Angelou has died aged 86. According to early reports she was found unresponsive in her home Winston-Salem, North Carolina today.

Her death comes days after canceling her appearance at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards luncheon, where she was to be honoured.

Born as Marguerite Ann Johnson, in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou was perhaps best known for her series of autobiographies, of which she wrote seven, including the trailblazing I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It discussed many subjects, mainly her youth growing up in segregated south America but also she was the first to talk about child rape, which spoke to women all over the world.

As well as her autobiographies, she wrote three books of essays, several poetry books, as well as plays, movies and television shows over many years. Angelou did a number of jobs as a teenager, including working as a cook and a cast member of Porgy & Bess.

Since 1982, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies.

Angelou was also a key voice in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1962 while she was living in Accra, Ghana with her son Guy, she met Malcolm X during one of his early visits to the country. As a result of that meeting, in 1965 she returned to the US to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Not long afterwards, he was assassinated, which devastated the author.

Then in 1968, Martin Luther King asked Angelou to help organise a march, however, King was then assassinated too, this time on her 40th birthday (April 4). Again, Angelou was devastated but this time, she managed to continue her work and produced Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans' African heritage for National Educational Television. It was not long after this that she wrote her seminal work I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

There are no details on her funeral as of yet.


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