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Maya Angelou, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' poet and author, dies at 86

According to AP, Poet and Author, Dr. Maya Angelou (MY'-ah ANJ'-eh-loh), has died at 86 of an undisclosed illness on Wednesday at her home in North Carolina. Maya Angelou was an African American shero who inspired all people. She rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become an iconic force on stage, screen and the printed page. Wake Forest University announced Angelou's death in a news release Wednesday.

Dr. Maya Angelou, legendary poet, receives honor from President Obama, is dead at 86.
Dr. Maya Angelou, legendary poet, receives honor from President Obama, is dead at 86.
Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," making her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller. In 1998, she directed the film "Down in the Delta" about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.

In 1993 she was the poet chosen to read at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. She wrote and read an original composition, "On the Pulse of Morning," which became a million-seller.

Angelou lived in North Carolina in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University. She was also a member of the board of trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM's "Oprah & Friends" channel.

She lived to see Barack Obama's inauguration and she was overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television "somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know."

She continued to be an active speaker, giving commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her. As she approached her 80th birthday, she decided to study at the Missouri-based Unity Church, which advocates healing through prayer.

We are thankful for the work Dr. Angelou has done, and the mark she has made in our lives, her work will live on for generations to come.

The poem Maya Angelou is most famous for:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

R.I.P. Maya Angelou

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