Maya Angelou, Renowned Poet & Memoirist, Dies At 86
Maya Angelou, the esteemed writer of both poetry and prose, died on Wednesday. She was 86.
Maya Angelou Dies
Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., her literary agent, Helen Brann, told The New York Times. Though no official cause of death has been released, it’s been revealed that she suffered from heart trouble and had long been in poor health.
Angelou is perhaps best known for her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969), which offered a look at her childhood growing up in the Jim Crow South in the lines of her lyrical prose. Angelou went on to publish six more memoirs – Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, A Song Flung Up to Heaven and Mom & Me & Mom.
As for her poetry, the poem she wrote and performed at Bill Clinton’s swearing in, “On the Pulse of Morning,” was one of her most lauded. Angelou’s volumes of poetry include Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, And Still I Rise, and Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?
Throughout her writings, Angelou documented the realities of her childhood in the South that was still overridden with racism. In her later memoirs, she opened up about being a single mother and the travels that brought her to Egypt and Ghana, where she met Malcolm X. She eventually helped both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., organize some of their civil rights efforts.
Angelou also had a career as an actress. She received a Tony nomination for her turn as Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress in the short-lived Broadway show Look Away. She starred as Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in Roots and appeared on the big screen in How to Make an American Quilt in addition to a number of other features.
Over the years, Angelou also used her talents to teach new generations of writers. She’d held a position as the Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University since 1981. In addition to writing, she also taught theater, theology and philosophy.
Angelou received a Pulitzer Prize nomination during her lifetime, a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011.