Maya Angelou was found dead in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The acclaimed poet and author, civil rights activist, famous for her autobiographies, died at 86 years of age. It was suggested that she has been suffering from poor health recently.
Apart from being an author, during her turbulent life and her career spanning more than 50 years, she worked as a dancer, prostitute, journalist (covering the decolonization of Ghana and Egypt), fry cook, performer, actress and producer of plays, movies and TV shows.
Marguerite Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, as the second child of Bailey and Vivian Johnson. Growing up in the era of Great Depression was a painful experience, as Angelou had to move a lot, and witness her parents’ divorce. At the age of 8 she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and it brought darkness and chaos into her childhood.
Despite that, Angelou managed to discover a profound love of literature and a heightened sense for the world around her. Even though she became well-established as a poet as well, as a writer, Angelou became famous principally for her series of seven autobiographies. The first autobiography of the series , “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, was the one that made by far the greatest impact, and not just in the USA.
It was written back in 1969 and tells the story of Angelou’s childhood struggles, and how she managed to conquer numerous traumatic experiences and evils of racism. There have been more than a few attempts to ban her books in schools, due to their style and content, but they are still widely used at all educational levels across the globe.
Her prose is often described as autobiographical fiction, and she shed new light on the understanding and structure of the genre.Angelou became politically active from an early age, and she grew to epitomize the voice of black people and women, and black culture in general.
Her involvement in the civil rights movement got her collaborating closely with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. She also wrote the famous poem, “On the Pulse of Morning”, which she read at president’s Clinton inauguration in 1993.
The entire American nation was taken with the poem so much that it later on sold millions of copies.She received many awards and more than 30 honorary doctoral degrees. In 1982 she began her professorship at the Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, teaching American studies.As an actress, she earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the “Look Away” in 1973.
Througout her careers, she knew and worked with numerous inspiring individuals such as herself, including Billy Holiday, Phyllis Diller and Abbey Lincoln.Staff at the Wake Forest University released a statement saying that “Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest, where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies.”