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Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou 

April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou, the American poet and author, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, in St Louis, Missouri, in 1928.  died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday. She was 86.

Her son, Guy B Johnson, confirmed the news in a statement. He said: “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belaboured 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 appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Johnson said Angelou “passed quietly in her home” sometime before 8am on Wednesday.

Bill Clinton, at whose inauguration Angelou read her On the Pulse of the Morning, said in a statement: “America has lost a national treasure, and Hillary and I a beloved friend.”

Angelou’s failing health was reported as recently as Tuesday, when she cancelled an appearance honouring her with a Beacon of Life Award because of “health reasons”. The ceremony was part of the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon, in Houston, Texas, part of Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Games.

Last month, forced to cancel an appearance at a library in Arkansas, she wrote: “An unexpected ailment put me into the hospital. I will be getting better and the time will come when I can receive another invitation from my state and you will recognize me for I shall be the tall Black lady smiling. I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts, in your conversation and in your prayers.”


The Guardian

US President Barack Obama has led the tributes to Maya Angelou, describing the poet, author and activist as “one of the brightest lights of our time”.

He hailed Angelou, as “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman”.

She made her name with the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which charted a childhood of oppression and abuse in the Deep South in the 1930s.

Her family described her as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”.

In a statement on Facebook, they said she passed away quietly at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at 08:00 EST (12:00 GMT).

“Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belaboured by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” they said.

 

BBC News

Maya Angelou was an American author and poet. She 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, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, cast-member 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 was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1982, she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held 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.

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson of black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of black culture. Attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries, but her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou’s major works have been labeled asautobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.

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