Maya Angelou, Legendary Author, has Died
May 28, 2014
Extremely renowned poet, novelist, and performer Maya Angelou died in her Winston-Salem home after a long illness. She was 86. Her eclectic life and career crossed generational and social boundaries. Angelou captivated readers with the eloquent and powerful truth of her childhood in her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, in which she not only brought to light the experience of growing up in the South but gave voice to her sexual abuse, opening doors for other women to do the same in a revolutionary way.
“Maya Angelou brought about a paradigm shift in American literature and culture so that the works, the gifts, the talents of women writers, including women writers of color, could be brought to the foreground and appreciated,” said Joanne Braxton, Professor at the College of William and Mary. “She created an audience by her stunning example.”
Angelou’s poetry is equally powerful and far-reaching. Angelou’s 1992 reading of her poems “Mother” and “On The Pulse of Morning” at President Clinton’s inauguration made her the first African-American woman, and only the second poet, in history to do so. Film director John Singleton, who used Angelou’s poems in his film Poetic Justice, said, “When we think of her, we often think about her books, of course, and her poems. But in the African-American community, certainly, we heard so much of her work recited, so I think about her voice. You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges."
Maya Angelou was the recipient of over thirty honorary degrees. Inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame for Writers, she also received the National Book Foundation’s The Literarian Award. Her diverse body of work has been nominated for Pulitzers and Tony Awards. In 2011, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded to a citizen of the United States. Angelou, who once said, “life loves the liver of it,” spoke at least six languages. Her career encompassed writing, dance, singing, acting, directing, and work as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. Her friends and colleagues across her lifetime included other icons such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey.
She eloquently described her life’s journey when she said, “Look where we've all come from... coming out of darkness, moving toward the light. It is a long journey, but a sweet one, bittersweet."