Poet, Author and Activist Maya Angelou Dead at 86

Posted on May 28, 2014

Poet, author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou has died of unspecified causes at the age of 86. She died in her home in Winston-Salem, NC. She had suffered from heart troubles and was frail, but was reportedly doing well in her last days. She was set to receive the Beacon of Life Award this week as part of major league baseball's annual Civil Rights Games. Dr. Angelou was a prolific and inspiring writer and authored numerous acclaimed books, essays, plays, screenplays and poetry collections. She received numerous awards and honors during her long career. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees.

Dr. May Angelou's family shared a statement about her passing on her Facebook page. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, writes, "Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."

Dr. Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969 and was nominated for a National Book Award. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Dr. Angelou was a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University. Wake Forest President President Nathan Hatch said in a statement, "Maya Angelou has been a towering figure - at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation. We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights."

May Angelou recited her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the 1993 Presidential Inauguration for Bill Clinton. Here is a video of her reading the poem:

A true American treasure, she will be greatly missed.

Wake Forest has set-up a remembrance website and guestbook for Maya Angelou at: mayaangelou.wfu.edu.

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