Poet, Author and Civil Rights Advocate Dies at 86



Dr. Maya Angelou, author of the classic autobiographical “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” has died. She was 86.

“Her words are so inspiring to all,” said Lee Ann Zuliani Barker. “My favorite poems are ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and ‘Still I Rise.’ I would have loved to have met her. She was a role model, educator, and very, very wise. She was so profound. A hero.”

Angelou’s death comes days after canceling her appearance at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards luncheon where she was to be honored. She was reportedly found unresponsive inside her Winston-Salem home.

Jane Portis said she was “heartbroken” when she heard that Angelou had died.

“She made hope accessible to all of us. Sometimes, just with a sentence. She insisted on equality for every one of us and said so in such beautiful ways that how – how could anyone of us argue her truth? She was to me, a walking, writing, worldly, tangible, piece of God’s grace. She never backed down from the truth. She was a giant for righteousness. She could say so much in one sentence (‘I have a certain way of being in this world, and I shall not, I shall not be moved.’ – Angelou wrote in her fifth collection of poetry.)

“I find my head nodding when I read her words,” Portis continued. “I love holding and reading her published works and I loved her posts on Facebook,” Portis said.

Mike Tidwell said he was deeply saddened at the news of Angelou’s death.

“America has lost a true national treasure. My first exposure to her was ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’ After that, I was hooked,” he noted.

Angelou published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, among others. She is credited with a long list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than 50 years.

Her list of awards includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry, and the Quill Award for Poetry.

Angelou spoke at least six languages and was born in St. Louis, MO, on April 4, 1928. She was born Marguerite Johnson and grew up in the segregated area of Southern Arkansas.

Dixie Wilson was also a fan of Angelou’s and called her a “timeless lady who will be deeply missed.”

Portis said the world has lost a warrior for what is right and fair in this world.

“We have lost the voice of gentle, persistent insistence for righteousness and equality for each and every being. I know the fight in her came from her indomitable spirit, and that fight will live on in each and every one of us that she gave courage to,” Portis said.

“Thank you for your lessons, Ms. Angelou. I learned so much.”

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