Renowned poet and author Maya Angelou dies at 86

Credit: Getty Images

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - MAY 20: Poet Dr. Maya Angelou celebrates her 82nd birthday with friends and family at her home on May 20, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Maya Angelou

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by NBC News

kgw.com

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:44 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 28 at 2:46 PM

Maya Angelou, the renowned poet, author and civil rights activist, has died, officials in her hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told NBC News. The author of the celebrated autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was 86 years old.

Her death comes less than a week after Angelou announced she would not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, where she was to be honored, citing "health reasons." Last month, she also canceled an event in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because she was recovering from an "unexpected ailment" that left her hospitalized.

The final entry on her Twitter account was four days ago.

 

Watch the NBC eulogy to Angelou.

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson. She grew up to become a singer, dancer, actress, writer and Hollywood's first female black director. 

Angelou had an impressive list of accolades: She was a three-time Grammy winner and was nominated for a Pulitzer, a Tony, an an Emmy for her role in the groundbreaking television mini-series "Roots."

But her success didn't come easily. Angelou's life struggles were fodder for her work.

Her childhood had been marked by sexual abuse, which she detailed in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" — the first of numerous autobiographies she wrote.

A few weeks after she finished high school, she gave birth to her son, Guy. A single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and a cook, but music, dance, and poetry were her true passions.

Her first big break came as a singer in the 1950s, when she toured Europe with a production of the opera "Porgy and Bess." In 1957, she recorded her first album, "Calypso Lady."

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