Maya Angelou, a self-described “phenomenal woman,” died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 28 at the age of 86. Among the most revered artists of her time, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by Barack Obama in 2011. In 1993 she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” composed for the occasion, at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
Perhaps best known for her literary contributions as a poet, memoirist, and novelist, she also made an artistic impact as an actress, filmmaker, and dancer. Beyond entertainment and the arts, Angelou was an activist in the civil rights movement, a friend to both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. It was all her many roles and contributions combined, and her graciousness as a human being—and her voice—that made her a beloved cultural icon and inspirational figure.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Ann Johnson, she grew up there and in a small town in Arkansas, before moving to San Francisco, California. There she studied drama and dance and at age 16 became the first African American female streetcar conductor. She endured and overcame trauma and hardship in her early life, and went on to great success, though her career and works were not without controversy. Her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970, and she for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and a Tony Award in 1973. Her spoken-word albums garnered three Grammy nominations. She was awarded dozens of honorary degrees and taught American studies at Wake Forest University.
Image credit: © Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
- Legendary Author Maya Angelou Dies at Age 86
This eulogy for Dr. Angelou includes a short video about her life, quotes from her work; and a recording set to video of her reading the poem “And Still I Rise.”
(Source: CNN, May 29, 2014)
- Maya Angelou: Global Renaissance Woman
This is the official website of the “poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist”; read a statement from her family about her passing as well as a biography; view the media gallery and descriptions of each of her works and films.
(Source: MayaAngelou.com; accessed May 31, 2014)
- “Fresh Air” Remembers Poet and Memoirist Maya Angelou
Listen to a 15-minute interview of Maya Angelou with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, recorded in 1986. Among many delightful utterances, her words on Shakespeare as an influence (at 05:11) are a must hear.
(Source: NPR, May 28, 2014)
- Remembering Maya Angelou
Q, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program of “entertainment, pop culture and high arts,” interviewed Maya Angelou in 2011—listen here.
(Source: PRI, May 28, 2014)
- 13 of Maya Angelou’s Best Quotes
Quotes from Maya Angelou, a profound thinker and crafter of genuinely inspirational verse, are featured here.
(Source: USA Today, May 28, 2014)