News & Politics

Maya Angelou, Celebrated US Poet and Author, Dies at 86

Angelou, who was also prominent in the civil rights movement, died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Photo Credit: Talbot Troy / Shutterstock

Maya Angelou, the American poet and author, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday. She was 86.

The news was confirmed to the Guardian by an assistant to Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines. It was also confirmed in statement issued by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, where she had served as a professor of American Studies since 1982.

"Dr Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world," the Wake Forest statement said.

Angelou’s failing health was reported as recently as Tuesday, when she canceled an appearance honoring 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.

Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson, in St Louis, Missouri, in 1928. She is perhaps best known for her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

She wrote seven autobiographies, and was a playwright, director, actor, singer, songwriter and novelist.

In 1993, she read On the Pulse of the Morning at President Clinton's first inauguration, a performance that made the poem a bestseller. 

Jessica Glenza is the Health reporter at the Guardian US. She tweets at @JessicaGlenza.

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