R.I.P. Acclaimed Author and Activist, Dr. Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou, acclaimed author, poet, professor and civil rights activist, has died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.  Angelou was found by her caretaker this morning, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed.

Angelou was set to be honored with the “Beacon of Life Award” at the 2014 Major League Baseball Beacon Award Luncheon on May 30 in Houston, but recently cancelled due to  health problems.  She is survived by her son, author Gus Johnson.

Angelou had a prolific career, published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She has also been an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.

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. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she 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.

In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  To learn more about her life and career, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson@lakinhutcherson

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