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We Remember Dr. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, a legendary poet, novelist and actress whose work permeated American culture has died in her North Carolina home, according to her publicist, Helen Brann, said.
Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.
Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In 1971, Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die. She later wrote the poem “On the Pulse of Morning”—one of her most famous works—which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
A professor, singer and dancer, among other things, Angelou’s work spans different professions. She spent her early years studying dance and drama in San Francisco, California.
After dropping out at age 14, she become the city’s first African-American female cable car conductor.
Angelou later returned to high school to finish her diploma and gave birth to her son a few weeks after graduation. While the 17-year-old single mother waited tables to support her son, she acquired a passion for music and dance. She toured Europe in the mid-1950s with “Porgy and Bess,” an opera production. In 1957, she recorded her first album, “Calypso Lady.”
In 1958, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and also played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.
Statement from Oprah Winfrey
I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. “When you learn, teach. When you get, give” is one of my best lessons from her.
She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.
Martin Luther King Jr., a close friend of Angelou’s, was assassinated on her birthday (April 5) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta’s death in 2006.