Maya Angelou dead at 86

Dr. Maya Angelou during a Dec. 2013 interview (WGHP)

Dr. Maya Angelou during a Dec. 2013 interview (WGHP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Award-winning author, renowned poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou has died. She was 86.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed Angelou was found by her caretaker on Wednesday morning.

The family confirmed the news in a statement on Wednesday:

“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored 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 extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Angelou’s publicist, Helen Brann, also confirmed the news.

Angelou had been reportedly battling health problems. She recently canceled a scheduled appearance of a special event to be held in her honor.

Angelou was set to be honored with the “Beacon of Life Award” at the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon on May 30 in Houston.

Wake Forest University issued a statement on Wednesday:

“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 since 1982. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

“Maya Angelou has been a towering figure — at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation. We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights,” Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch said on Wednesday.

School officials said information about a campus memorial may be shared at a later date.

Outside Dr. Maya Angelou's home in Winston-Salem (WGHP)

A hearse leaves Dr. Maya Angelou’s home in Winston-Salem (WGHP)

Angelou, one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time, is a celebrated poet, novelist, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker and civil rights activist.

A professor, singer and dancer, among other things, Angelou’s work spans several different professions. She spent her early years studying dance and drama in California.

After dropping out at age 14, she became the San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor.

Angelou later returned to high school to finish her diploma and gave birth to her son a few weeks after graduation. While the 17-year-old single mother waited tables to support her son, she acquired a passion for music and dance.

Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has received over 50 honorary degrees and was Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

Angelou is famous for saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou’s birth name was Marguerite Annie Johnson, and she was fluent in 6 languages

Angelou was also named one of the 10 most admired North Carolinians in a recent Elon Poll. She was also named one of the most admired people in the world, according to a recent Elon Poll.

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up between St. Louis and the then-racially-segregated Stamps, Arkansas.

Angelou' s home in Winston-Salem (WGHP)

Angelou’ s home in Winston-Salem (WGHP)

The famous poet got into writing after a childhood tragedy that stunned her into silence for almost a decade. When she was 7, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. He was later beaten to death by a mob after she testified against him.

“My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years,” she said.

From the silence, a louder voice was born.

Her list of friends is as impressive as her illustrious career. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey referred to her as “sister friend.” She counted Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she worked during the Civil Rights movement, among her friends. King was assassinated on her birthday.

Angelou spoke at least six languages, and worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. During that time, she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” launching the first in a series of autobiographical books.

“I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine … before she realizes she’s reading,” she said.

Angelou was also one of the first black women film directors. Her work on Broadway has been nominated for Tony Awards.

Before making it big, the 6-foot-tall wordsmith also worked as a cook and sang with a traveling road show. “Look where we’ve all come from … coming out of darkness, moving toward the light,” she has said. “It is a long journey, but a sweet one, bittersweet.”

CNN contributed to this report.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s last tweet:

147 comments

  • Lea

    To all of you ignorant people who are posting saying she was nobody and never heard of get a life apparently you have nothing better to do than post stupid ignorant comments online everybody has heard of her and she was a icon

    • Chucky

      Well I’d have to disagree with you there… obviously not “everyone” has heard of her.

      • magnatic90

        @Chucky Well you know her now. And she was obviously well-known enough to make every national headline today. So you could either utilize this as an opportunity to learn more about her life, or just let her rest in peace. Ignorance is bliss, but not when you’re using it in a way to demean and belittle others.

      • Lea

        Even if you haven’t never heard of her that doesn’t mean people should put her down if you dont know who she is how can you judge her and say mean things about her IF YOU NEVER HEARD OF HER!

  • Sarah

    She was more of a “spiritualist” as Oprah, neither of them claim to be Christian and that is obvious in their views and what they say but they do believe in a higher being, and she was a courageous and beautiful person that dedicated her life to better others, so for that she is commended and may she rest in peace…

  • ladypoetry

    Sad to hear of Dr. Maya’s passing but ever so thankful that she lived and shared her gifts and talents with the world. She was such an inspiration to me throughout the years as I love poetry and the world of literary. We are blessed because she graced our lives with her teachings and left us with so many treasures to always reflect upon. Rest in peace and God bless and console her loved ones.

  • mark

    I see the haters are out in force. So her work here on earth was not as yet done. She spoke at my 1976 college graduation (Bates College) where she was a voice of strength and love. Too bad that message was not heard by more.

  • Robert

    The first time I read “Still, I Rise” I wept with joy. The first time I recited “Still, I Rise” I wept with joy. Dr. Angelou put a rainbow on all our dark clouds.

  • Dana

    This is a bit off-topic but Fox8, you desperately, desperately need a better website team. This site is very top-heavy, takes too long to load and acts all sorts of weird when people try to comment through the Chrome browser. Designing only for IE or for IE and Firefox is a mistake and a sign of lazy programming. You need to be optimizing for all the regularly-used browsers. The one good thing you could say about your setup is it might have discouraged a few trolls, though it’s hard to tell that from the trainwreck I’m seeing in the comments here.

  • nonna1

    so, where’s Paganpink’s reply? It was the truth. But I guess you can’t stand the truth.

  • Gordon Ingram

    There are no less than 10 articles and a red “breaking news” banner on the front page of this site devoted to the passing of Dr. Angelou as of 2:30pm today. I do respect her accomplishments but does anyone recall how many articles were up at one time on Monday for Memorial Day? Just a thought.

  • Theresa

    The night has been long,
    The wound has been deep,
    The pit has been dark,
    And the walls have been steep.

    Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,
    I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
    Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,
    You couldn’t even call out my name.
    You were helpless and so was I,
    But unfortunately throughout history
    You’ve worn a badge of shame.

    I say, the night has been long,
    The wound has been deep,
    The pit has been dark
    And the walls have been steep.

    But today, voices of old spirit sound
    Speak to us in words profound,
    Across the years, across the centuries,
    Across the oceans, and across the seas.
    They say, draw near to one another,
    Save your race.
    You have been paid for in a distant place,
    The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains
    Have paid for our freedom again and again.

    The night has been long,
    The pit has been deep,
    The night has been dark,
    And the walls have been steep.

    The hells we have lived through and live through still,
    Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.
    The night has been long.
    This morning I look through your anguish
    Right down to your soul.
    I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
    I look through the posture and past your disguise,
    And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

    I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
    I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
    I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
    Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
    Let us come together and revise our spirits,
    Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
    Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
    And stop impostering our own history.
    Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
    Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
    Courtesy into our bedrooms,
    Gentleness into our kitchen,
    Care into our nursery.

    The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
    We are a going-on people who will rise again.

    And still we rise.
    Maya Angelou

      • Theresa

        Everyone has an opinion.Just like A holes, we all have one but you don’t need to share your S*#@ with everyone. Who cares if you think it’s garbage?????

  • Vicki

    I find it apalling that you fools get on the internet and preach hate and judgement in the name of religion. Who is your God and what book do you read to learn such nonsense? There is a book called the Bible that says “judge not lest you be judged” and a little something about the 11th and greatest commandment being “love one another” Ms Angelou knew that commandment and practiced it far beyond your ignorance allows you to understand… Will you leave heaven because she is there before you? Or grovel and apologize?

  • Carol

    it would have been a honor to meet Ms.Angelou, I’ve loved her poerty&words of wisdom since I could remember god bless u 4 ur encouraging words thru out my life, may u rest in peace

  • SHowardHobbs

    It is very sad and rather disturbing that in the passing away of someone, who may be known or unknown to some, this person in her passing deserves respect, honor and some dignity. Regardless of personal feelings, beliefs, social or political stances this woman has passed. Give this woman, rather if you like her or not, have read her books or poems or agree with the title bestowed upon her or not, let the woman die in peace and those who can appreciate her value, and worth to them and this world, give her the honor, respect and accolades if they are so led to do so. It is really disheartening to see the people going off on tangents about things that really shouldn’t matter or even should be discussed at this juncture, the woman has passed, end of story. Let her rest in peace.

  • B

    How does one teach at Wake Forest without a College degree? How many honorary degrees equal a college degree? I’m sure she has a high intellect on social issues but she has no college degree. She spent all that time at Wake and why not pursue a degree??

  • Momofthree

    My favorite quote of hers: “If God loves me, if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees, then what is it I can’t do?”

    • Brian

      MOMOFTHREE, doesn’t that favorite line of yours from the late Maya Angelou sound a lot like Romans 8 31? , “if God is for us then who could be against us? Hmm, I appreciate her zeal for life, but I wish I could quote the New Testament and earn the living she did.

  • Kay

    Farewell Dr. Maya Angelou. Your work here is done and you did it extremely well with great pride and dignity. You have inspired the world. Your gifts will endure forever.RIP!!!

  • R.Boschelli

    Gosh, all this Misunderstood comments on a Lady That Was a Lady That spoke from her heart to her God and shared her thought to people that wanted to listen and follow. She didn’t judge ,she wanted to be listened Too. I was indeed one that listened and was touched by her thoughts. And she did just that Touched me. Rest in Peace my Angel. For You are A person who touched the people that wanted to listen and were grateful they did . You Made a Big DIFFERENCE IN PEOPLES ACTIONS > peace . To this world who still have not been touched By who ever they need to feel that gift. RIP My Angels of many Angles.. be remembered by all.

  • southerntongue

    Maya Angelou spoke beyond race and gender rights issues, she spoke of the universal human spirit. I was touched to witness her speak locally at Austin Peay University back in 1998 when I was just a senior in high school. This week I was compelled to pay tribute to her with my artwork. You can see my portrait of the author along with some inspiring words of hers at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2014/05/in-memoriam-maya-angelou.html Drop by and tell me how her life’s work inspired you as well!

  • Yaeger Jackson

    Yes, the great Maya has been called home, more important projects to take care of on the other side, but folks don’t you fret now, because she is just a thought away if you need her. Moreover, don’t include her on the list with so many other greats who were given their 15 minutes of send offs at their passing, and were eventually forgotten in years to pass, but keep her spirit alive. Don’t let her 80 plus years on this earth be forgotten, and placed back in some box in a deserted building in years to come that no one ever goes to, but instead take the torch that is ever so bright from Maya into your heart and pass it on, pass it on. One person at a time, pass it on. So when the time comes, for your home coming, and Maya comes to you in spirit and ask. ” I noticed how upset your were about my passing, and how much you were affected by it, but once the fan fare wore off about my passing. “How did you keep my spirit alive on the earth, what will be your answer?

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