Maya Angelou, the iconic author and activist whose career spanned decades, has died at the age of 86, her publicist confirmed on Wednesday morning. Angelou found in home this morning, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after battling recent health problems.
A American fixture for decades as a poet, artist, civil rights leader, and public intellectual, Angelou is known best for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a treatise on American racism, literature, and identity, which became a standard part of high school curricula across the United States. In that memoir, Angelou wrote that "words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning."
Through her career, Angelou was a voice for the civil rights movement and the legacy of the Jim Crow South. Her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, written for Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, was a landmark achievement. You can watch that reading below:
Late last week, Angelou canceled an appearance where she was set to receive an award at the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon ahead of the annual Civil Rights game, citing poor health. That day, she also issued this, the final tweet on her official account:
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.— Maya Angelou (@DrMayaAngelou) May 23, 2014
Something of a legend at this point was Angelou's encounter with rapper Tupac Shakur. Angelou was on the set of the movie Poetic Justice, which incorporated a number of her poems into the script, when she saw Shakur on the verge of getting into a fight with someone. Of course, she interceded. Here's the story:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.