Poet and author Maya Angelou dies

The author died, aged 86, at her home in North Carolina

By Emma Chong Johnston | Published: 29 May 2014

Maya Angelou dies
Photo: Getty Images

Celebrated US poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died aged 86 at her home in North Carolina. The news was confirmed by her son Guy B Johnson in a statement.

"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 appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."

After personal trials in her early life – she grew up in the segregated south, was raped as a child, gave birth as a teenager and turned to prostitution at one point – Maya, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, became an acclaimed and prolific writer. She released seven autobiographies, three books of essays and numerous books of poetry, as well as plays and screenplays over her life time. She acted in, directed and produced films, gave a number of notable (and quotable) lectures and was a public and eloquent supporter of first Bill Clinton and then Hillary Clinton. Most memorably, Maya recited her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at Bill Clinton's inauguration.

Maya received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honour, from President Obama in 2012. In a statement, the president said: "Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves."

The internet has been flooded with tributes to Maya, from both celebrities and people who have been inspired by her poetry and words.

“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." Rest in peace, Maya Angelou.


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