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Maya Angelou: Actress, author and civil rights activist dies at 86

Maya Angelou, an American author and poet died Wednesday at the age of 86. Dr. Angelou passed away at home in Winston-Salem, N.C., according to Fox News reports. The famed civil rights activist died a few days before a major baseball event was to honor her with an award on May 30.

Dr. Maya Angelou passed away at home in Winston-Salem, N.C. at the age of 86.
Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images

The “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” autobiographer cancelled this year’s Major League Baseball (MLB) Beacon Awards luncheon – an event set to award her the MLB Beacon of Life Honoree – due to health reasons. Robin Roberts, TV anchor of ABC’s morning show, “Good Morning America,” was chosen as keynote speaker, scheduled to join with Angelou before the announcement of health problems; Roberts agreed to accept the award on her behalf in her absence.

The civil rights activist was a self-taught educator, having earned over 50 honorary degrees, she taught American studies at Wake Forest University. The literary writer wrote her first screenplay titled, “Georgia, Georgia”; she became the first black female screenwriter in 1972.

The “Roots” actress overcame adversity all her life as outlined in her poem, “Still I Rise.” The St. Louis, Mo. - born professor was a victim of rape at the age of 7, took on jobs throughout her life as a fry cook, was a strip club dancer, store clerk and even a prostitute before becoming an accomplished writer and producer for TV and film; professions which directed her off the streets to survive.

Civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the three times “Grammys” winner collaborated during the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. Facts based on mayaangelou.com, Dr. King had asked the head-strong civil rights activist to serve as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Oprah Winfrey befriended with Dr. Angelou for an interview on her TV show. Winfrey viewed the novelist as a respected familial figure who had survived adversity; both were raped and pregnant as children.

Winfrey said this of her best friend in an "O Magazine" publication, “Maya brought clarity to my life lessons. Now we have what I call a mother-sister-friend relationship. She's the woman who can share my triumphs, chide me with hard truth and soothe me with words of comfort when I call her in my deepest pain.”

Dead at 86, Dr. Maya Angelo leaves behind son, Guy Johnson, grandchildren, Colin Ashanti Murphy-Johnson and Elliott Jones along with great grandchildren, Caylin Nicole Johnson and Brandon Bailey.

Our sincere condolences to family, friends and to all those who knew of Dr. Maya Angelou.